Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council [2003]

English Tort Law

Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council [2003]
‘Solitary Swimmers’ by Pedro Covo

Reckless endangerment and the scope of relevant statute prove the nucleus of a case where the civil liberties of the general public and a local authority’s duty of care ran risk of judicial pollution when a life-altering injury led to a damages claim.

Purpose-built from derelict land, the 14-acre Brereton Heath Country Park was home to a popular lake known as the ‘mere’, and although the appeal of the lake drew over 160,000 visitors a year, the controlling borough and local authorities had prohibited swimming through the presence of warning signs, leaflet distribution, lifebelts, throwing lines and constant supervision by park rangers despite flagrant ignorance by the a majority of the attending public.

Unfortunately on this occasion the 18 year-old respondent elected to stand in little over two feet of water before proceeding to dive in, whereupon he struck his head on the sandy bottom and broke the fifth vertebrae in his neck. Now facing life as a tetraplegic the respondent sought damages from the local authority under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 on grounds that a duty of care was owed as both a trespasser and park visitor.

For clarity s.2(2) of the 1957 Act stated that:

“The common duty of care is a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.”

While s.2(4) explained that:

“In determining whether the occupier of premises has discharged the common duty of care to a visitor, regard is to be had to all the circumstances, so that (for example) (a) where damage is caused to a visitor by a danger of which he had been warned by the occupier, the warning is not to be treated without more as absolving the occupier from liability, unless in all the circumstances it was enough to enable the visitor to be reasonably safe…”

However in 1976 the Law Commission gave recommendation to a statutory duty of care for trespassers as was given effect in s.1(1) of the 1984 Act s.1(1) while s.1(5) and s.1(6) further read that:

“(5) Any duty owed by virtue of this section in respect of a risk may, in an appropriate case, be discharged by taking such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to give warning of the danger concerned or to discourage persons from incurring the risk.

(6) No duty is owed by virtue of this section to any person in respect of risks willingly accepted as his by that person (the question whether a risk was so accepted to be decided on the same principles as in other cases in which one person owes a duty of care to another).”

This translated that where no award was found under the first Act then the same would apply by extension to the second, while leading authority for the conversion from visitor to trespasser was found in Hillen v ICI (Alkali) Ltd in which the House of Lords had held that:

“So far as he sets foot on so much of the premises as lie outside the invitation or uses them for purposes which are alien to the invitation he is not an invitee but a trespasser, and his rights must be determined accordingly.”

And so given the fact that swimming was overtly and historically prohibited, the respondent sought remedy as a trespasser with claims that the water had muddied his view of the bottom, whereupon mention was made to Whyte v Redland Aggregates Ltd  in which the Court of Appeal had explained that:

“[T]he occupier of land containing or bordered by the river, the seashore, the pond or the gravel pit, does not have to warn of uneven surfaces below the water. Such surfaces are by their nature quite likely to be uneven. Diving where you cannot see the bottom clearly enough to know that it is safe to dive is dangerous unless you have made sure, by reconnaissance or otherwise, that the diving is safe, ie, that there is adequate depth at the place where you choose to dive. In those circumstances, the dangers of there being an uneven surface in an area where you cannot plainly see the bottom are too plain to require a specific warning and, accordingly, there is no such duty to warn…”

In the first instance the judge held that the lake simply wasn’t dangerous enough to warrant local authority liability, and so dismissed the claim before the Court of Appeal extended the occupiers liability beyond one of reasonable limits and awarded damages, however under challenge, the House of Lords fully considered the accountability of the respondent before reversing the previous judgment and restoring the original findings  on grounds that the principle that individual risk-taking in the knowledge of visible danger was incumbent upon the owner was counter-productive inasmuch as failure to acknowledge warnings was not a precursor for liability when the claimant suffers harm, whereupon the House reminded the parties that:

“[L]ocal authorities and other occupiers of land are ordinarily under no duty to incur such social and financial costs to protect a minority (or even a majority) against obvious dangers.”

Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) [2004]

English Tort Law

Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) [2004]
‘Recycle’ by Steve Mills

Convention principles and the juxtaposition between public interest and individual  privacy lie central to a clamant’s case when the needs of a known supermodel are considered secondary to the public knowledge of her drug addiction, thus sparking fierce debate as to where the lines of journalistic privilege and private health ought to be drawn.

Following the appellant’s prolonged public denial, she was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment in what was described as an allergic reaction to antibiotics, however a few months later the appellant was photographed outside a known ‘Narcotics Anonymous’ venue before a newspaper article included a number of those images under the title ‘Naomi: I am a drug addict’, in which the publication revealed that despite  repeated protests the appellant was in fact a long-term narcotics user, and that in a battle to overcome her addiction she had enrolled into a self-help programme. 

Unfortunately one of the images had captured the sign of a well-known café, thereby allowing readers to know where she may be found, while the article text revealed how often she might be attending, while prior to its release the newspaper editor had contacted the appellant’s agent, whereupon they were told that the images proved a violation of the appellant’s right to privacy and confidentiality in relation the anonymous nature of her chosen therapy, and yet the respondents ran the story and litigation followed soon after. 

In the first hearing the appellant claimed for breach of confidence and sought damages under the Data Protection Act 1998, whereupon she was awarded a total of £3,500, after which the Court of Appeal reversed and discharged the award before the House of Lords examined art.8(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998, which reads that:

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, of for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

And art.10(2), which reads that:

“The exercise of these freedoms since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalities as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protections of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, of for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

While noting how in Attorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No 2) they had held that:

“[A] duty of confidence arises when confidential information comes to the knowledge of a person . . . in circumstances where he has notice, or is held to have agreed, that the information is confidential, with the e­ffect that it would be just in all the circumstances that he should be precluded from disclosing the information to others.”

Before the House further noted how clause 3(i) of the Editors’ Code of Practice of the Press Complaints Commission provides that:

“(iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Note – Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

However the House also referred to Bladet Tromsø and Stensaas v Norway, in which the European Court of Human Rights had held that:

“Although the press must not overstep certain bounds, in particular in respect of the reputation and rights of others and the need to prevent the disclosure of confidential information, its duty is nevertheless to impart in a manner consistent with its obligations and responsibilities information and ideas on all matters of public interest.”

Which was a position concurrent with s.12(4) of the HRA 1998, which reads that:

“The court must have particular regard to the importance of the Convention right to freedom of expression and, where the proceedings relate to material which the respondent claims, or which appears to the court, to be journalistic, literary or artistic material (or to conduct connected with such material), to (a) the extent to which (i) the material has, or is about to, become available to the public; or (ii) it is, or would be, in the pubic interest for the material to be published; (b) any relevant privacy code.”

And so by embracing both elements to the argument the House upheld the appeal on grounds that clandestine nature of ‘Narcotics Anonymous’ protected the needs and identities of those attending, thus when the respondents gained unauthorised access to the appellant’s treatment, they did so in the knowledge that it represented no less than a violation of her art.8 rights, whereupon the House reminded the parties that:

“Any interference with the public interest in disclosure has to be balanced against the interference with the right of the individual to respect for their private life. The decisions that are then taken are open to review by the court.”

Dunlop Pneumatic Tyres Co Ltd v Selfridge & Co Ltd [1915]

English Contract Law

Dunlop Pneumatic Tyres Co Ltd v Selfridge & Co Ltd [1915]
‘Tyre’ by Kiku Poch

After litigation is bought against a third party the enforcement of a contract extending beyond reasonable bounds proves the undoing of a commercial tyre distributor when the rules of English contract law move to narrow the scope of claim and protect those party to sub-contracts.

In 1911 the appellant tyre manufacturer set about establishing written agency distributorship agreements with a number of commercial outlets in order to retain control over the sale value of its key products, wherein sch.2 and sch.5 of those contracts required all participating agencies to agree that:

“(2) We will not sell or offer any Dunlop motor tyres, covers or tubes to any private customers or to any co-operative society at prices below those mentioned in the said price list…nor give to any such customer or society any…discounts or advantages reducing the same.

(5) We agree to pay to the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co Ltd, the sum of 5l for each and any tyre, cover or tube sold or offered in breach of this agreement, as and by way of liquidated images and not as penalty, but without prejudice to any other rights or remedies you or the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co Ltd may have hereunder.”

In exchange the agencies were granted a 10% discount and some instances annual rebates for high value orders, and so on this occasion the respondents had purchased a Dunlop tyre from an agency, who as consideration were prevented from selling Dunlop products to any other firms or individuals for less than the standard list price, while afforded a discretionary right to sell Dunlop products to other trade outlets at a maximum of 10% discount on the proviso that those purchasing had pre-signed a prohibitive contract similar to the one held by the agencies.

With this in mind the respondents later sold a particular Dunlop tyre to a private customer at a seven and a half percent discount, and yet when ordering the tyre from the agency they were informed that no discount could be offered to the buyer without the completion of a signed price maintenance agreement (an act later executed by the respondents). 

Having learned of this the appellants sought an injunction and sued the respondents for breach of contract on grounds that the agency were acting under their principle control, therefore by selling the tyre to a prohibited party they were liable for damages as expressed in sch. 5 above. 

In the first instance the judge awarded in favour of the appellants before granting the injunction as requested, while challenged in the Court of Appeal the respondents argued that the contract between the agency and the appellants excluded the right to enforce it upon a third party on grounds that no consideration had been given by the appellants when the price maintenance agreement was drafted between the respondents and the agency. 

Having lost the appeal the appellants pressed the issue before the House of Lords, who unanimously upheld the previous judgment on grounds that lack of consideration at the point the agreement was made precluded the appellants any claim of right under English common law, while reminding the parties that:

“[O]nly a person who is a party to a contract can sue on it.

Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985]

English Constitutional Law

Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985]
‘Yarra Bank (Trade Union) Meeting’ by Patrick Harford

Executive powers and national security form the footing of this call for judicial review under the argument that changes to civil servant working conditions were executed without due consideration for those affected.

In a relationship with a chequered history it was decided by the Minister of the Civil Service (aka Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher) that since the previous strike actions of key staff within the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had proven destructive, it was necessary to execute instructions to ban any affiliation by government employees with trade unions of any sort, and while this unprecedented move was carried out under legitimate sovereign powers, it directly conflicted with the principle that governmental decisions were first offered to consultation with the trade unions as an inherent duty to exercise fairness when carrying out executive function.

On this occasion the instructions were carried out under art.4 of the Civil Service Order 1982 but orally released within the House of Commons, and so greeted with natural anger and confusion, while the aim of this sudden prohibition was simply to circumvent open discussion in lieu of avoiding future strike actions now considered a significant threat to national security.

When heard at court level the presiding judge had held that the instructions were issued on grounds demonstrating no effort toward consultation and were therefore invalid in their application, while under challenge the Court of Appeal had held that the executive action itself was not exempt from judicial review because the order came from prerogative powers rather than statute, and that despite the latter source forming the premise for most reviews, the Court saw no distinction between a self-executed order and that of an act of Parliament.

In response the defence used by the Minister for the Civil Service relied upon operational safety measures, and how under those circumstances it was felt that the same people responsible for the previous compromises were right to be excluded from using consultation as leverage to create further damage, while it was further argued that any discussions between trade unions and Government would have amounted to the same outcome regardless of protests by those affected. 

This position was further supported by the fact that s.(a) and (a)(ii) of art.4 of the Order in Council 1982 allowed the Minister to create regulations controlling the conduct of those employed, therefore denial of trade union membership lawfully fell within those remits.

When the Court upheld the Minister’s actions, the appellants pressed the issue, whereupon the House of Lords sought to establish whether (i) judicial review was necessary, and (ii) whether the respondents had acted in manner that precluded fairness and a duty to follow precedent, after which it was held that while the avoidance of discussion demonstrated a clear breach of that duty, it was not the responsibility of the courts to determine what constituted a threat to national security and that the executive itself was empowered to prove or disprove itself as to its own actions, all of which led the House to conclude that:

“[W]here a question as to the interest of national security arises in judicial proceedings the court has to act on evidence.”

A v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004]

English Constitutional Law

A v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004]
‘Freedom’ by Abed Alem

The unlawful detention of individuals suspected of terrorist activity is central to this collective appeal amidst the unprecedented attacks of September 11th 2001 in New York, when in light of this historic event the United Kingdom took swift measures to derogate from their commitment to the Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Following a number of arrests, there were nine men of various nationalities detained under s.23 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. In order to facilitate such action the Home Secretary had worked closely with Parliament to both execute and enact Part 4 of the 2001 Act, which provided powers to issue freezing orders upon those suspected of threats to the stability or security of the country. To further support this measure, statutory instrument SI/2001/3644 (also known as the ‘Derogation Order’) was drafted as to allow for specific actions peripheral to the Human Rights Act 1998 where those suspected were subject to the terms of the 2001 Act.

Prior to this amendment it was only possible under para.2(2) of sch.3 of the Immigration Act 1971 for the Secretary of State to detain non-British nationals while awaiting deportation, and such action was only deemed justifiable for a reasonable period of time, as this allowed the United Kingdom to remain fully compliant with its obligations to the ECHR, in particular art.5(1) (Right to liberty and security). However, in Chahal v United Kingdom Parliament attempted to circumvent art.3 of the Convention (No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) in order to excessively detain and deport a Sikh separatist on grounds of an affiliation to terrorism, but were overruled by the EU Commission on democratic principles.

In this instance the appellants were challenging the derogation from ECHR principles for the purposes of detainment and deportation of foreign nationals, on grounds that the United Kingdom was not in a state of public emergency as required by art.15(1) of the Convention, and that further clarification of that article had been found in The Greek Case, where the Commission had explained that:

“Such a public emergency may then be seen to have, in particular, the following characteristics: (1) It must be actual or imminent. (2) Its e­ffects must involve the whole nation. (3) The continuance of the organised life of the community must be threatened. (4) The crisis or danger must be exceptional, in that the normal measures or restrictions, permitted by the Convention for the maintenance of public safety, health and order, are plainly inadequate.”

It was thus contended that none of the above elements were visible when derogating from the ECHR and applying the terms of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 in order to both arrest and detain the appellants, and further noted that recent ministerial statements indicated that the United Kingdom was under no immediate threat, and so while alert to international attacks they had no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Having considered the voluminous evidence provided by both sides, and the decision taken by the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords reemphasised the course of action taken by the Secretary of State, who had countered that failure to adopt a pre-emptive state of emergency was tantamount to a breach of national security. And so while no immediate evidence suggested imminent danger to the general public and economic infrastructure, proportionate measures taken, now far outweighed the argument for adherence to Convention policy, despite overwhelming disagreement by the European Commission. 

There was also discussion around unlawful use of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) as provided for in s.24 of the 2001 Act, who were granted exclusive jurisdiction over the rights and appeals of detainees, as opposed to referral to the courts, which was another obvious attempt to circumvent due process under principles of national security.

With knowledge of deviant use of policy and a flagrant appreciation of the English judicial system the House unanimously allowed the appeals, while quashing the Derogation Order and declaring s.23 of the Ant-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 incompatible with arts.5 and 14 of the ECHR on grounds of discrimination through the use of immigration status, before reminding the court that:

“[A] non-national who faces the prospect of torture or inhuman treatment if returned to his own country, and who cannot be deported to any third country and is not charged with any crime, may not under article 5(1)(f) of the Convention and Schedule 3 to the Immigration Act 1971 be detained here even if judged to be a threat to national security.”

Foster v British Gas [1986]

European Law

Foster v British Gas [1986]
‘British Gas Works on the River Spree’ by Adolf Meckel von Hemsbach

In the same way that Marshall v Southampton and South West Area Health Authority [No.1] determined the rights of female employees under the protections of Directive 76/207/EEC, this class action matter extended its scope to allow damages for dismissal under the guise of retirement.

When six former workers were subjected to forced retirement at the age of sixty, they sought remedy through the industrial tribunals on grounds that the respondent had violated its obligation to observe the Directive’s principles of equality, and thus they were entitled to compensatory payment in lieu of their significant financial losses.

In the first instance the appellants claims were dismissed on the strength that since 1986 the British Gas Corporation had become a private entity, and therefore it fell beyond the scope of the Directive, while a subsequent appeal to both the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal proved futile.

Undeterred, the appellants presented their case to the House of Lords, who sought a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice under art.177 EC, whereupon two questions asked: 

1. Whether the manifestation of British Gas Plc (at the time of the claim) was within the terms of the meaning “state”? 

2. And if so, what form the award might take? 

Having evaluated the facts, the House held that when Directive 76/207/EEC first came into force it was ignored by the United Kingdom and subsequently failed to become part of domestic legislation within the provided timeframe, therefore the respondents were state owned and thereby subject to the terms of the Gas Act 1972, while the state’s failure to transpose the terms of the Directive left it open to the Community law doctrine that ‘no state can profit from its own failure’.

This resulted in a judgment for the appellants on grounds that the terms of the Directive were fully applicable to the respondents as they qualified as an emanation of the state and were subject to the effects provided under it, while the Court reminded the parties that:

“[T]he State may not benefit from its default in respect of anything that lies within the sphere of responsibility which by its own free choice it has taken upon itself, irrespective of the person through whom that responsibility is exercised.”

R v G (2002)

English Criminal Law

R v G and R
‘Racing with Fire’ by Andrea Banjac

Reckless culpability and the innocence of youth cross swords in a case that both rewrote the powers of legislation and allowed subjective reasoning to prevail, when two young boys aged eleven and twelve spent the night outside before playing in the rear storage yard of a Co-operative store.

What began as tomfoolery with matches and newspaper, wound up as criminal damage and arson totalling over £1m in damages, however with equal consideration of English criminal law and precedent relating to the facts, it also became a matter destined to reach the House of Lords.

Having decided to camp out underneath the stars, the two appellants trespassed into the refuse area of the store and began reading discarded newspapers, after which they set alight to a bundle of newspapers before placing them beneath a large plastic dustbin. Without staying to watch the flames extinguish, the defendants later left the yard and presumably returned home. 

Unfortunately as is the nature of fire, the flames ignited the bin, which subsequently ignited the adjacent bin until the fire spread to the roof and beyond, and so when first heard at trial the judge rightly relied upon the exacting terms of s.1(1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971, which reads that:

“A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an off­ence.”

While the term ‘reckless’ remains subjectively difficult to ascertain, the application of this measure failed to discriminate between the range of comprehension created through age, disability, or intelligence. This absence of evaluation forced the jury to determine the boys’ guilt on the objective reasoning of an adult, as established in R v Caldwell and earlier in R v Cunningham (albeit a case more reliant upon maliciousness than ignorance).

In Caldwell the defendant had been intoxicated prior to choosing to set fire to his employer’s hotel, thereby putting the guests and staff in great danger while noting that he had paid little mind to the consequences when starting the fire, while it was this case that led to an objective reasoning test that whilst applicable to most mature adults, offered little consideration for children or vulnerable adults in similar circumstances.

Having deliberated on the certainty of a fair conviction, the judge and jury were left finding guilt, although not without concern for the limitations of the  1971 Act, and so with their challenge dismissed by the Court of Appeal, the appellants were granted leave to present to the House of Lords, where greater attention was placed upon the disparity of the Criminal Law Act 2003 and art.40(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (Public hearings and access to documents), which expressed that:

“States parties recognise the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society.”

It was then with appreciation of the narrowness that recklessness previously enjoyed, that the House examined the relevance of continuing to broaden the scope of reckless behaviour, so as to avoid the need for deliberate and considered forethought to the mindset of those accused.

Upon revisitation of the case history preceding the Criminal Damage Act 1971, it became clear that overlooking the objective test had prevented fair and reasoned judgment, and that this particular case was the perfect vehicle upon which to amend that error, thus  the House (by majority) declared the boys’ innocence and upheld the appeal, while clarifying that:

“[I]f the law is to operate with the concept of recklessness, then it may properly treat as reckless the man who acts without even troubling to give his mind to a risk that would have been obvious to him if he had thought about it.”