Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
JudgeLORD JUSTICE PILL,LORD JUSTICE BROOKE,LORD JUSTICE HENRY
Judgment Date31 July 1998
Judgment citation (vLex)[1998] EWCA Civ J0731-22
Date31 July 1998
Docket NumberCCRTI 97/1711/9

[1998] EWCA Civ J0731-22

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

ON APPEAL FROM BRISTOL COUNTY COURT

(JUDGE BATTERBURY)

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2

Before:

Lord Justice Henry

Lord Justice Pill

and

Lord Justice Brooke

CCRTI 97/1711/9

Janet Leach
Appellant/Plaintiff
and
Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary
Respondent/Defendant

MR R DENYER QC and MR J ISHERWOOD (Instructed by Messrs Montague Harris, South Glos, BS37 6AN) appeared on behalf of the Appellant

MR S FREELAND (Instructed by Messrs Dolmans, Cardiff, CF1 4PA) appeared on behalf of the Respondent

LORD JUSTICE PILL
1

On 17 November 1997 His Honour Judge Batterbury TD DL struck out Mrs Janet Leach's claim for damages against the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire. The plaintiff appeals against that striking out and the issue for this Court, as expressed by the defendant in the written submissions made on his behalf, is "whether the learned Judge was correct in holding that on the matters set out in the particulars of claim the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care".

2

On 25 February 1994, the plaintiff, then a voluntary worker on the Young Homeless Project in Cheltenham and 38 years old, was asked by a police officer in the Gloucestershire force to attend Bearland police station to act as what is described in the Code of Practice under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1974 ("the 1974 Act") as an "appropriate adult" during a police interview at the station. She was told only that the person to be interviewed was a 52 year old male. In fact, the particulars of claim continue, "it was one Frederick West who was about to be questioned about a number of murders committed in particularly harrowing and traumatic circumstances". She had been told nothing about the nature of the case. The police had formed the view that West was mentally disordered so that Code C required the presence at interview of an appropriate adult.

3

On that day and for many weeks thereafter, the plaintiff acted as "an appropriate adult" "sitting in on interviews, accompanying him [West] to scenes of the murders he had committed and, on numerous occasions, being locked and left alone in a cell with him". It is common ground that on 24 March 1994, the plaintiff signed, at the request of police officers, a confidentiality agreement which I will set out. Had she declined to sign, she could not have continued to act as an appropriate adult. The plaintiff claims that she was not offered counselling or support until January 1995 after West had committed suicide in custody. The plaintiff subsequently gave evidence at the trial for murder of Rosemary West, wife of Frederick. The plaintiff claims that, by reason of her involvement in the matter, she has suffered post-traumatic stress and psychological injury as well as a stroke.

4

Further particulars of the particulars of claim have not been sought and the present application is to be considered on the basis of that pleading but it is common ground that the plaintiff attended very many interviews, about forty, as an appropriate adult between 25 February and 24 March 1994 and again between 13 April and 5 May 1994. The West case is notorious amongst modern crimes and it is inconceivable that the police officers concerned were unaware during most if not all of that period that they were dealing with a particularly harrowing case involving allegations of mass murder. That must have been obvious at an early stage of their enquiries. The plaintiff alleges that West's solicitor (Mr Ogden) and his staff as well as the defendant's officers on the case were offered counselling in 'the course of and as a result of their involvement with the case.

5

The allegations of negligence are:

"(a)she was caused and/or permitted to attend and accompany Frederick West over the course of the protracted investigation described without adequate or any warning of what the case involved, when it was or ought to have been apparent that such previous experience as she may have had in the guise of "appropriate adult" on the Young Homeless Project would be limited to juveniles charged, in the main, with minor offences;

(b)there was no proper assessment of the Plaintiff's suitability for the task described nor due or any consideration given to the effect that attending and accompanying West in the manner herein described at paragraph 3 would or might have on her, as an untrained/unqualified voluntary worker whose experience was limited to the young and homeless;

(c)insufficient care was taken to ensure that the "appropriate adult" caused or permitted to attend and accompany the said West was properly qualified and/or experienced enough to take on the role without risk of mental or psychological harm;

(d)no counselling or trained help and support was offered or made available to the Plaintiff during and/or within a reasonably short time of her exposure to the trauma undergone as a result of what she heard and witnessed during the investigation and interviews described;

(e)the counselling and trained support available to Mr Ogden, his staff and the Defendant's officers on the case was not provided for or offered to the Plaintiff;

(f)the Plaintiff was falsely advised and assured that she would not have to testify at trial;

(g)there was in the premises a failure to make reasonable provision for the health and welfare of the Plaintiff during and as a result of her involvement in the said case when it was or ought to have been known from the particularly harrowing and traumatic nature of the offences concerned that she would be exposed to potentially injurious mental and psychological stress."

6

The confidentiality agreement provides:

" THIS AGREEMENT dated 24-03-94 is made

BETWEEN: -

(1)The Gloucestershire Constabulary ("the Constabulary") of Divisional Police Headquarters, Bearland, Gloucester, and

(2)Mrs Janet Leach ("the Appropriate Adult") of 11 Elm Grove Road, Hucclecote, Gloucester.

WHEREBY IT IS AGREED as follows:-

(3)Definitions

"the Appointment"the appointment of the appropriate adult pursuant to the terms of this Agreement

"the Constabulary"the Police Force for Gloucestershire

"the Appropriate Adult"the person appointed by the Constabulary for the specific purpose of attending interviews as an "observer".

(4)Purpose of this Agreement

The agreement is for the appointment of an Appropriate Adult for the specific purpose of attending interviews as an "observer" conducted by the Constabulary pursuant to their investigation into the alleged crimes perpetrated by Mr. Frederick Walter Stephen West of 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester or any matters arising from or connected thereto

(5)Date of Agreement

This Agreement shall be of no effect until it has been signed by or on behalf of both parties and it is agreed that the terms of this Agreement shall have effect from the date on which the Appropriate Adult was appointed in that capacity as specified in Clause 6.

(6)Period of Appointment

The Appointment shall commence on or be deemed to have commenced on 25th February 1994.

(7)Appropriate Adult's obligations

The Appropriate Adult shall attend such interviews and act as an observer as requested by the Constabulary.

(8)Confidentiality

In order to protect the confidentiality of notes photographs, plans or other written or spoken information however stored which the Appropriate Adult may have acquired during her appointment and without prejudice to every other duty to keep secret all information given to the Appropriate Adult or gained in confidence or acquired during the Appointment the Appropriate Adult agrees that any such information is confidential and will not either during the Appointment or after its termination disclose to anyone and will use the Appropriate Adult's best endeavours to prevent the disclosure to anyone of any confidential information concerning all matters heard or disclosed to the Appropriate Adult during interviews and all ancillary discussions including all meetings and discussions which may take place between the Appropriate Adult Mr. West and his defence Solicitor or nominated agent in the absence of a member of the Constabulary.

The Appropriate Adult will not at any time make any copy abstract summary or précis of the whole of part of any information document or photograph relating to any details acquired during the period of appointment. Any such copy abstract summary or précis of the whole or part of any information document of photograph prepared in breach of the provision shall belong to the Constabulary and should be immediately given over to the Constabulary when so directed by the Constabulary.

The Appropriate Adult shall therefore not disseminate during the period of this agreement or after its termination any such information without the written permission of the Constabulary.

(9)Criminal Law

Without prejudice to any other duty and remedy implied by law, equity and the terms of this Agreement the Appropriate Adult acknowledges potential liability for prosecution under the Criminal Law for breach of this Agreement.

(10)Effect of Termination

The termination of the Appointment shall be without prejudice to any right the Constabulary may have in respect of any breach by the Appropriate Adult of any of the provisions of this Agreement which may have occurred both prior to and after such termination.

(11)Status of Agreement

Nothing in this Agreement is intended to create an Employer and Employee relationship and the Appropriate Adult acknowledges that no express or implied duties are owed by the Constabulary to the Appropriate Adult.

(12)The Appropriate Adult acknowledges that she is under an express duty not to disseminate any information as...

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8 cases
  • AB v A Chief Constable
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 16 June 2014
    ...standards. The relevant statute itself might preclude the possibility of a public and private law duty being imposed: see Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire [1999] 1 WLR 1421. But with respect the issue is not whether, as it was in Leach, an individual can sue in private law (in tha......
  • Marie Flora Mcdonald Or Cross And Another V. Highlands And Islands Enterprise And Another
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Session
    • 5 December 2000
    ...unreported cases in which Walker had been referred to with apparent approval (Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, [1999] 1 WLR 1421, per Brooke LJ at 143D and Henry LJ at 1442D; Beard v Jevans Furnishing Co. Ltd., Court of Appeal, 6 October 1999; and Alexander v Midland......
  • McLoughlin v Jones and Others
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 22 November 2001
    ...claims for damages for psychiatric illness, attention has mainly been focused on the cases which I described in Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary [1999] 1 WLR 1421, 1434 as being "concerned with situations in which a plaintiff suffers psychiatric illness as a result of......
  • James Stuart Mulvey Gibson (ap) V. John Orr, The Chief Constable, Strathlclyde Police
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Session
    • 26 February 1999
    ...road users from the hazard. Reference was also made to Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary (now reported at [1999] 1 All E.R. 215) and Swinney v Chief Constable of Northumbria Police [1997] Q.B. 464, especially per Hirst L.J. at pp. 463-5 and Peter Gibson L.J. at p. 466.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Liability for Work Stress: Kohler Ten Years On
    • Australia
    • University of Western Australia Law Review Nbr. 39-2, September 2015
    • 1 September 2015
    ...19[1993] ICR 702, 710. 20(1991) 104 ACTR 1, 15, quoted above, text p 152. 21Leach v Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary [1999] 1 WLR 1421. 22Waters v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2000] 4 All ER 934. 23(2000) 217 ALR 583. 24(1998) Aust Torts Rep 81-472. 156 Universit......

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