Supreme Court allows appeal in Worboys case and rules on ambit of duty on police

7 March 2018

The Supreme Court has given judgment in the Worboys case, DSD and NBV v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2018] UKSC 11. It upheld the decision of the High Court and the Court of Appeal that the police were liable to two of Worboys’ victims for investigative failures which breached Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The issue on the appeal concerned the ambit of the investigative obligation under Article 3, the extent to which it applied in cases where the underlying offence was perpetrated by a member of the public (as opposed to a state agent), the types of investigative errors that can give rise to liability, and the extent of the right to compensation.

The Court held that the duty applies even where the underlying offence was perpetrated by a member of the public, and so applied in the Worboys case. The duty extends to cover operational as well as systemic investigative failures (albeit Lord Hughes would have held that it only applied to the latter). However, not every isolated error or omission will give rise to liability – only serious errors. The Court ruled that “compensation is by no means automatically payable for breaches of the article 3 duty to investigate and prosecute crime”, pointing out that the award of compensation for breach of a Convention right serves a purpose which is distinctly different from that of an order for the payment of damages in a civil action (which is why no damages are awarded unless necessary for just satisfaction).

The judgment can be found here

Lord Pannick QC and Jeremy Johnson QC acted for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in the Supreme Court.

Jeremy Johnson QC and Mark Thomas acted for the Commissioner at first instance and in the Court of Appeal.


Mark Thomas

Call 2006

Related areas

Police Law


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