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Waters v Police - H oh L judgment

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The House of Lords handed down its opinion yesterday (27th July 2000) in Waters v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

Ms Waters was a police officer. She alleged she was raped and buggered by a fellow police officer. Her complaint about that officer was not taken seriously or properly investigated. Moreover, she was subsequently tormented and bullied by her colleagues for complaining about a fellow officer. She suffered psychological harm as a result of (1) the failure to investigate, and (2) the subsequent bullying.

Her claims of sex discrimination failed before the IT, EAT and Court of Appeal - essentially because it was accepted that the constable was not acting in the course of his employment. That finding was not appealed.

She also brought a claim for personal injuries in the High Court. This was struck out as disclosing no reasonable casue of action, and the strike-out was upheld by the judge and the Court of Appeal. It is against that strike-out that Ms Waters appealed to the House of Lords.

The House of Lords held (unanimously) that is clearly arguable that an employer (including the police, as a quasi-employer) owes a duty of care to an employee to investigate allegations of rape by colleagues. It is also clearly arguable that the commissioner was (1) in breach of that duty by failing to investigate; and, (2) vicariously liable under section 48 of the Police Act 1964 for the subsequent acts of police officers in bullying and harassing the Claimant.

Accordingly the appeal was allowed and the strike-out overturned.

The House also stated (by a majority of 4:1) that the cases holding that the police owe no duty of care to individuals to investigate crime might not be applicable where the police are also the employer of the victim of crime, since such a person falls to be considered under duties to employees, not duties to members of the public. for notifying me of this decision>