Buckingham v Daily News Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date15 June 1956
Judgment citation (vLex)[1956] EWCA Civ J0615-2
CourtCourt of Appeal
Date15 June 1956
Thomas Alfred Buckingham
Plaintiff, Appellant.
The Daily News Limited
Defendants, Respondents.

[1956] EWCA Civ J0615-2


Lord Justice Denning

Lord Justice Birkett and

Lord Justice Parker

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal


I will ask Lord Justice Blrkett to deliver the first Judgment.


LOBD JUSTICE BIBXBTT: This appeal, which has been extremely well argued upon both sides, raises quite an interesting matter, and I hope to deal with it quite plainly and quite shortly. The appeal comes to this Court in this way: the Plaintiff is a man named Thomas Alfred Bucklnghes, and he was employed by the Defendants, who are the well-known firm, The Dally News Ltd., who either own or produce or print the News-Chronicle and the Star; they are newspaper proprietors and publishers. Mr. Buckingham had worked for six years with the Defendants and he was described by himself as a rotary machine attendant. It is quite clear that for six years he had been dealing with a machine of the type with which waum are concerned here today. That machine was at the premises of the Defendants in Bouverie Street, where the papers are printed.


I need not go into the technical matters very duopoly because they do not really matter very much, but there are certain tucking blades of which we had photographs put before us. They are employed In the process of folding the newspapers. Which are done in these modern days at very high speed, and a very remarkable thing it is to see. From time to time these tucking blades which are shown in the photographs before us get covered with all and ink, and attract, no doubt because of that, conditions dirt. They become really to be described as dirty and from time to time it is necessary that they should be cleaned.


Mr. Buckingham on the 19th January of 1955 was employed as the rotary press assistant and was actually engaged in this task of cleaning the tucking blades at the Defendants; premises at Bouverie Street when he met with this accident which is said to have been an accident which required 11 stltohes to be put in. It was a out due to the sharpness of the tucking blade.


I ought Just to say this. that the evidence was What the tucking blades when they are originally put in are not sharp; they are blunt, but by use they very quickly become much sharper not so sharp, says the Judge, as a razor blade, but sharp enough to out; and that was an element which the learned Judge had in his mind.


Now I think that is probably enough Just to explain the circumstances under which the accident crose. Mr Buckingham was undoubtedly injured by this out from a tucking blade on the 19th January of last year when he was employed by the Defendants and employed in this very task of oleaning the tucking blades.


The metudd of oleaning the blade was by taking what is called a swab; but it was produced to us and was of the nature of a household dish cloth. You have it in your hand like you hold a dish cloth. The position of Mr Buokingham when engaged upon this task was shown to us: he was slightly above it and slightly looking down upon it There were the tucking blades and there was his hand containing the dish cloth or swab at his task, the tucking blades being at rest, of course - not moving - to clean them from the oil, the grease and the dirt and the accumulation which had cone.


It was when he was engaged in that task that the corner of one of the plates out hiss. Apparently he made a very sharp almost involuntary nation, and receives the out In this case. He brought the action, therefore, against the Defendants at common law. There lei no question of any regulations about fencing or anything of that sort complicating the case. He was just saying: You, the employers, failed in your common law duty to me to provide a reasonably safe system of work.


I have commented upon how frequent that phrase is now since the great case in which the words appear, Wilsons and Clyde Coal Co. v. English (1938 A.C., 57). But I think it is always to be understood that the common law duty, which is theduty which is invoked la this case where it is said the employers failed la the common law duty, la that the master must take reasonable care for his servants' safety. Now, that is the simplicity of it, and all that that case of Wilsons and Clrds Coal Co, v. English does is to enlarge upon the detail of that duty. In particular, Lord Wright said it was a threefold duty the provision of a competent staff of men; adequate material; and a proper system of effective supervision. It is not an enlargement of the duty but an illustration of the nature of the common law duty which has always rested upon the nature of the common law duty which has always rested upon the employer: he must take reasonable steps for the safety of his workmen.


When this case oame before the learned Judge. His Honour Judge Block at the Mayors and City of London Court on the 20th April of this year, what was said by Mr Buckingham was: I got my injury, my out, because of your failure to carry out that common law duty to take reasonable steps for my safety. in that you did not provide a proper and reasonably safe system of work. There was no duty laid upon the Plaintiff to go into particulars as to the safe system of work suggested; it was enough for him to say, if it be the fact, that the system of work which was in operation was not reasonably safe. That was a system of swab cleaning by hand. They said that was a defective system and it was in fact suggested that you should have a long handled brush and clean the blades with that, when there would be no possibility of the hand coming into contact with sharpened tucking blades. That was the nature of the complaint and I hope vary much that I have made it plain what the action was precisely about.


When the case started, the learned Judge, having been invited, with the consent of Counsel upon both sides. as I think very wisely and very properly, to go to Bouverie street to see the very thing, decided to go and went. He went accompanied bythe learned Counsel on both sides and by the Plaintiff. They went to Bouverle Street and saw the machine upon which Mr. Buckingham had been working with the very blades. Mr Doughty says, of course, that there was a great deal of noise going on; an and one can quite understand that in a big printing works if the machines were running, there would be a great deal of noise It was difficult to hear what was said, no doubt. It was said by Mr Oriffiths and Mr Doughty does not really challenge it though he says "In fact I did not see it" - that the Plaintiff. Mr Buckingham, showed the Judge at Beuverie Street on this machine exactly what he was doing with the tucking blades on the day on which the accident took place.


Now, there was some suggestion - end I therefore ought Just to deal with it - that some man, who is not identified, said something to the Judge. Mr Doughty - I think inadvertently: he was perfectly ready to withdraw it - made some suggestion that that was evidence given in the case that nobody knew anything about. Of course, it is pure speculation: the man might have been talking about the noise in that building, if he talked at all; or he might have said "This is the very machine", or something like that. There is no warrant whatever for saying that the Judge took some evidence secretly or that was not open to everybody else. That was one thing.


The second thing I want to say Is this: the first contention made by Mr Doughty in this Court about that facet was that the learned Judge made up his mind on this case on the view, and had made up his mind when he returned to Court to listen to the evidence. Again I think there is no warrant for that submission or for that observation and I think as a fact we had clear evidence that that was not so. But when all is said and done, putting those two points on one side, because they do not really affect the decisive issue, the submission that Mr Doughty makes is that what the learned Judge did in this case is a thingforbidden, he says, by law, according to the authorities, namely, that he cast to the winds the evidence that was given for the Plaintiff la this case and substitututed for that evidence the impression which he had gained when he made the view At Bouverle Street about which I have spoken. And Mr. Doughty said - and one does not complain about it - time and again in order to emphasize the strength of his submission, that the evidence was all one way; meaning thereby that no evidence was called for the Defendants, as Indeed there was noses. The only evidence called In the Court was evidence called on behalf of the Plaintiffs; and Mr Doughty is perfectly entitled to say 14 that case and In that sense the evidence as all one way: it was the evidence for the Plaintiff. It is quite true that the witnesses were cross-examined by Mr. Griffiths for the Defendants; but then Mr Griffiths took the course of saying "I do not call any evidence for the Defendants"; and then the learned Judge proceeded' to give Judgment.


And so the first submission - and it is an important submission - made by Kr Doughty is that In this case what the learned Judge did was (to use a phrase that is employed in one of the oases cited to us) to cast to the winds the evidence which had been given for the Plaintiff and to substitute for that evidence the mere opinion or impression which he himself had gained at the view.


He cited in support of that submission the case of London General Omnibus Company Ltd, v. Lavell (1901. 1 Ch., 135). That was a case that was decided by Mr Justice Farwell in the Court of first Instance, and this report is of the decision of the Court of Appeal. The headnote of that case reads: "In an action for deceit brought on the ground that a particular article used by the defendant is a...

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