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Alexandrou v Oxford [1993] 4 All ER 328 Court of Appeal

The claimant owned a clothing retail shop in which he had installed a burglar alarm system which if activated would raise the alarm at his local police station through an automated 999 call. The shop was burgled but the police failed to secure the property. The Claimant brought an action in negligence against the Chief Constable. At trial, the judge found for the claimant. The Defendant appealed contending that no duty of care was owed.

Held:

In the absence of a direct contractual relationship with the Chief Constable, no duty of care was owed.

Glidewell LJ:

"It is possible to envisage an agreement between an occupier of a property protected by a burglar alarm and the police which would impose a contractual liability on the police. That is not, however, the situation in this case. The communication with the police in this case was by a 999 telephone call, followed by a recorded message. If as a result of that communication the police came under a duty of care to the plaintiff, it must follow that they would be under a similar duty to any person who informs them, whether by 999 call or in some other way, that a burglary, or indeed any crime, against himself or his property, is being committed or is about to be committed. So in my view if there is a duty of care it is owed to a wider group than those to whom the judge referred. It is owed to all members of the public who give information of a suspected crime against themselves or their property. It follows, therefore, that on the facts of this case it is my opinion that there was no such special relationship between the plaintiff and the police as was present in Dorset Yacht. On this issue I respectfully disagree with the learned judge...In my view the observations of Lords Keith and Templeman in Hill in relation to the effect on the police of their being potentially liable in negligence were general, not limited to the facts of that case. I would therefore hold that it is not fair or reasonable that the police should be under any such common law duty as is here proposed."


Slade LJ:

"In my judgment, however, it is unthinkable that the police should be exposed to potential actions for negligence at the suit of every disappointed or dissatisfied maker of a 999 call. I can see no sufficient grounds 'or holding that the police owed a duty of care to this plaintiff on or after receipt of the 999 call on 26th January 1986, if they would not have owed a duty of care to ordinary members of the public who made a similar call."
 
 
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