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Phipps v Rochester Corporation [1955] 1 QB 450

A 5 year old boy was walking across some open ground with his 7 year old sister. He was not accompanied by an adult. He was injured when he fell into a trench. The Corporation were not held liable as an occupier is entitled to assume that prudent parents would not allow their children to go unaccompanied to places where it is unsafe.

Devlin J on duty owed to children

“The law recognises a sharp difference between children and adults. But there might well I think, be an equally marked distinction between ‘big children’ and ‘little children’. …The occupier is not entitled to assume that all children will, unless they are allured, behave like adults; but he is entitled to assume that normally little children will be accompanied by a responsible person. …The responsibility for the safety of little children must rest primarily upon the parents; it is their duty to see that such children are not allowed to wander about by themselves, or at least to satisfy themselves that the places to which they do allow their children to go unaccompanied are safe. It would not be socially desirable if parents were, as a matter of course, able to shift the burden of looking after their children from their own shoulders to those persons who happen to have accessible pieces of land.”
Back to lecture outline on Occupiers Liability in tort law