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A landmark decision by the Supreme Court has ruled that police forces are now legally liable in criminal investigations. Victims of serious crime who are affected by police failures during investigations, like those that took place in the case of serial ‘black-cab rapist’ John Worboys, may be able to claim compensation.
In the Judgment, the Court ruled that the Metropolitan Police had failed to carry out an effective investigation into Worboys. The two victims involved in the ruling, known as DSD and NBV, were sexually assaulted in 2003 and 2007. However, because their claims were not properly investigated by the Police, Worboys continued to target women across London.
It is thought that between 2002 and 2008, he carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults. In a question directed at the police, one of the women, DSD, poignantly stated: “had you done your job properly, there wouldn’t be 105 victims, there would be one. I can take the one. I can’t take the 105.”
The women claimed their treatment by police had caused them mental harm, including serious distress, anxiety, and depression. Collectively, they were awarded £41,250 in compensation.
Lawyers for Scotland Yard attempted to challenge the claim that they had breached the women’s human rights by failing to investigate properly. They argued that imposing a duty of care on officers over investigations reduced effectiveness.
However, this appeal was quashed by the Supreme Court yesterday and the women’s claims were upheld.
Our director, Michael Jefferies, comments on the ruling:
“As we have seen in the case of John Worboys, police failings in criminal investigations can have serious consequences and can significantly affect the psychological health and well-being of the victims. What’s more, these errors can lead to victims being denied justice.
This week’s judgment will set a far-reaching precedent for police liability will means that victims of serious crime may be able to claim compensation from the police for failures in their investigations.
Until now, the police were, in many respects, immune from legal action. This week’s ruling will mean that these individuals will be able to hold the Police to account.”