Silcott v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date24 May 1996
Date24 May 1996
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)

Court of Appeal

Before Lord Justice Neill, Lord Justice Simon Brown and Lord Justice Waite

Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis

Police - complaints - investigating officers' reports - public policy immunity

A person whose conviction for a crime was subsequently quashed on the ground that it was unsafe and unsatisfactory could not bring any civil action for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and misfeasance in public office against police officers investigating the crime who, he alleged, had created a false record of an incriminating interview with him, because the officers were protected by a rule of absolute immunity conferred as a matter of public policy.

The Court of Appeal so stated dismissing an appeal by the plaintiff, Winston Emmanuel Silcott, from the dismissal by Mr Justice Drake on April 12, 1995 of his appeal against a striking-out order made by Master Eyre on February 2, 1995.

The plaintiff had served statement of claim on the defendant commissioner pleading three causes of action: (i) conspiracy to pervert the administration of justice; (ii) misfeasance in public office, and (iii) malicious prosecution. The first two had been struck out.

The plaintiff sought to have them reinstated, the advantage being that he would be spared the need to prove the absence of reasonable and probable cause to prosecute, one of the essential elements of the tort of malicious prosecution, but an element lacking from the other two causes of action.

On October 6, 1985 Police Constable Blakelock was killed during a riot on a housing estate in Tottenham in North London. The plaintiff was arrested by Detective Chief Superintendent Melvin for the murder. He was interviewed by DCS Melvin and Detective Inspector Dingle.

On March 19, 1987 the plaintiff was convicted at the Central Criminal Court of the murder and of riot. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and ten years imprisonment respectively.

The only witness against the plaintiff at the trial was DCS Melvin who produced notes made by DI Dingle of the interview. The notes contained admissions by the plaintiff of his guilt.

On July 25, 1991 the Home Secretary ordered an investigation of the way in which the interview had been conducted and the authenticity of the notes of the interview.

Om October 1, 1991 the Home Secretary referred the convictions to the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, under section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968. On November 15, 1991 that court quashed the...

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9 cases
  • Darker and Others v Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 27 July 2000
    ...the extent of the immunity is to examine the grounds of public policy which explain the basis for the immunity. In Silcott v. Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis [1996] 8 Admin. L.R. 633, 637C-E Simon Brown L.J. said: "The public policy purposes underlying the immunity are essentially......
  • Taylor v Director of the Serious Fraud Office
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • 29 October 1998 duty of care. There is also some dispute over whether it applies to the emergent tort of abuse of public office. In Silcott v. Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (1996) 6 Admin. L.R. 633 and again in Docker v. Chief Constable of West Midlands Police (unreported), 17 March 1998, Co......
  • Harris v Evans and Another
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 24 April 1998
    ...or probable cause, as part of their evidence in court. The authorities were examined by the Court of Appeal in Silcott -v- Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (1996) Vol. 8 ALR 633. Simon Brown L.J. said, at p.640:- "Protection must extend to the preparation of evidence equally as to ......
  • Stanton and Another v Callaghan and Others
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 8 July 1998
    ...The immunity of a witness from suit in respect of evidence given in court was described by Lord Justice Simon Brown in Silcott v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (1996) 8 Administrative Law Reports 633, at page 636, as a fundamental rule of law. The origins of the rule were traced ......
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