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#duty #law #negligence #tort
However, in Swinney v Chief Constable of Northumbria (No. 2), The Times, 25 May 1999, the Court of Appeal made it clear that the police did not have ‘blanket immunity’. The claimant was a pub landlady who had provided the police with information concerning a suspect involved in the death of a police officer. She had made it an absolute condition that she remained anonymous. Nevertheless, a police file containing her details was left unattended in a police car and was stolen. On being told this she suffered psychiatric illness and had to give up her job. As in previous cases, the police argued that there was no relationship of proximity between them and the claimant and, even if there were, policy reasons would prevent such a duty existing. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Informers should not be considered like other members of the public; they had a special relationship with the police, which created sufficient proximity. Policy was considered but, in this case, acted in the claimant’s favour, in that to deny that the police owe a duty might be to hinder the disclosure of confidential information. However, judgment was nevertheless granted in favour of the defendant on the basis that there had been no breach of the duty. The police owed a duty but, on the facts of the case, this duty had not actually been breached.
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