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Osman v Ferguson [1993] 4 All ER 344 Court of Appeal

A school teacher (Mr Paul Pagett Lewis) formed an unhealthy attachment to a 14 year old pupil (Ahmet Osman). He had given him money, taken photographs of him and followed him home. The police were informed but no action was taken. Things continued and the teacher changed his name by deed poll to Paul Ahmet Osman. He accused Ahmet of having a homosexual relationship with a fellow pupil and tried to prevent them speaking to each other. He was then suspended from teaching and embarked upon serious harassment of Ahmet and his family. The police were called on several occasions and the teacher had told the police that he was unable to control himself and would do something which was criminally insane if he was not stopped. Eventually he followed Ahmet home one night and shot him and his father. Ahmet survived but unfortunately his father didn't. The teacher was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Ahmet's mother brought an action for the death of her husband and Ahmet brought an action for the personal injuries he suffered as a result of the police force's failure to apprehend the teacher earlier or to provide adequate protection. The defendant applied to have the claim struck out as disclosing no reasonable cause of action. The application was dismissed by the High Court. The defendant appealed.


The appeal was allowed and the claim struck out. Whilst the Court was satisfied that it was reasonably foreseeable that harm would result and that there was a sufficient closeness of proximity, the case of Hill v CC of Yorkshire had laid down, as a matter of public policy, a blanket immunity on the police from such actions.

NB See also the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights
Back to lecture outline on policy factors in relation to duty of care