Racz v Home Office

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date04 December 1992
Date04 December 1992
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)

Court of Appeal

Before Lord Justice Neill, Lord Justice Beldam and Lord Justice Kennedy

Home Office

Tort - misfeasance of public employee - outside scope of employment

Home Office not liable for officer's misfeasance

A prison officer who committed the tort of misfeasance in public office by carrying out acts which were unauthorised or which were done for some malicious purpose was acting outside the scope of his authority. Therefore, the Home Office was not vicariously liable for the misfeasance.

The Court of Appeal so held dismissing an appeal by the plaintiff, Steven Racz, from Mrs Justice Ebsworth (The Times November 25) who had granted an application by the Home Office to strike out of the plaintiff's statement of claim an allegation of misfeasance in public office.

The plaintiff, a remand prisoner at Armley in Leeds, was suing the Home Office for damages for assault, misfeasance and false imprisonment arising out of his ill treatment by prison officers at the prison.

Mr David Harris, QC and Mr Tim Owen for the plaintiff; Mr Guy Sankey, QC and Mr Neil Garnham for the Home Office.

LORD JUSTICE NEILL said that the deliberate abuse of power by a person holding public office constituted the tort of misfeasance in public office.

It was common ground that: (a) the Crown was vicariously liable for the torts of prison officers;

(b) an employer was vicariously liable for torts committed by the employee in the course of his employment and would be liable even for acts which he had not authorised, provided that they were so connected with acts which he had authorised that they might be regarded as modes, although improper modes, of doing them;

(c) if the unauthorised and wrongful act of the employee was not so connected with the authorised act as to be a mode of doing it, but was an independent act, the employer was not liable.

Basing himself on those principles, the plaintiff argued that as the officers concerned were on duty at that time and were in charge of the plaintiff as a prisoner on remand, their conduct towards him was an improper mode of carrying out their task of looking after him.

For the Home Office it was argued:

First, that save in exceptional circumstances, the tort of misfeasance in public office could not attract vicarious liability. By its very nature the tort involved the commission of acts which were unauthorised by the employer and known by the tortfeasor to be unauthorised, or alternatively, involved some...

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16 cases
  • Rosli bin Dahlan v Tan Sri Abdul Gani bin Patail
    • Malaysia
    • High Court (Malaysia)
    • 1 Enero 2014
  • Majrowski v Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 16 Marzo 2005
    ...pp 83–84; Salmond & Heuston on the Law of Torts, 21 st ed, p 443; Canadian Pacific Railway Co v Lockhart [1942] AC 591, at 599; Racz v Home Office [1994] 2 AC, 45 at 53; and the recent adoption by the Canadian Supreme Court of the "sufficiently related to" or "close connection" test in Baz......
  • David Axon (Claimant) Ministry of Defence (Defendant) News Group Newspapers Ltd (Third Party)
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 11 Abril 2016
    ... ... December had been published) were prosecuted for conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Ms Jordan-Barber pleaded guilty and, in January 2015, was sentenced by Saunders J. to 12 months ... for the employee's own ends – see for instance Lloyd v Grace Smith and Co [1912] AC 716 , Racz v Home Office [1994] 2 AC 45 and Lister v Hesley Hall Ltd [2002] 1 AC 215 ... ...
  • Gregory v Portsmouth City Council
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 27 Enero 2000
    ... ... considerations, pursued by a combination of his political opponents and unscrupulous office seekers in his own party. Thirdly, he alleged that the Council knew that the proceedings could not ... Swansea City Council [1990] 1 W.L.R. 1453 at 1458 ; Racz v. Home Secretary [1994] 2 A.C. 45 ; Bourgoin S.A. v. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and ... ...
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