Claim against Hampshire Police by injured officer

Posted by Malcolm Johnson on

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A police officer, who was involved in a raid on a cannabis factory injured her hand when a window broke. She had been advised to wear latex gloves for the raid by a colleague.

The injured officer claimed damages from the police alleging that they were liable for not providing gloves that were effective to prevent or reduce the injury (for example thick gardening gloves), contrary to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 ("the 1992 Regulations"), and the common law duty of care.

The judge upheld her claim under the 1992 Regulations. He concluded that had the officer been provided with thick gloves to protect against sharp edges, and held that had she been wearing them, the injury probably would not have occurred. Damages of just under £5,000 were awarded. The police appealed.

Lord Justice Elias in the Court of Appeal set out the 1992 Regulations together with the following cases:- Threlfall v Kingston Upon Hull City Council [2011] ICR 209 and Fytche v Wincanton Logistics plc[2004] ICR 975.

The first issue was whether the Regulations were engaged. The trial judge had made the finding that there was a low but not de minimis level of risk in the cannabis factory generally. It followed that there was a duty to provide equipment, in this case thick gloves, to protect against this risk.

The second issue was whether the duty to provide gloves was engaged at the time of the accident. Elias J said that the judge had contemplated that at any time the Claimant might be required to do work other than actually removing the plants, and this could involve contact with sharp edges. This was a perfectly proper inference. It would undermine the protection which the Regulations were designed to provide to allow their application to depend upon a fine analysis of the specific task which the worker happened to be carrying out at the particular point in time when she was injured.

The third issue related to the judge's conclusion that the onus was on the police to show that the accident would not have happened had the gloves been provided, rather than placing the burden on the officer to show that it would. It is submitted that she should have adduced evidence to show that she would have worn thick gloves even when her task was simply to remove the cannabis plants.The judge's analysis was that the burden was firmly on the employer. Elias LJ referred to two cases: Ali Ghaith v Indesit Company UK Limited [2012] EWCA Civ. 642 and McWilliams v Sir William Arrol and Co [1962] 1 WLR 295.

In his view, the judge's analysis was correct and the appeal would be dismissed. This case illustrates how high an employer’s duty can be set. Even though the risk of this type of injury occurring was low, the court still held that the police had to guard against it. The latex gloves were clearly issued to guard against the risk of touching the cannabis plants, which was the main reason for the raid but that was not enough and so the Claimant won her case.

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Malcolm is an Senior Associate in our London office, with nearly twenty years' experience.

Malcolm Johnson
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