Previous: Negligent Omissions

Public bodies such as the emergency services or county councils have a wide range of responsibilities. Therefore they can also have significant liabilities. Therefore, it is said that there must be some control mechanism to prevent the entire local authority’s budget going to people claiming that they haven’t acted. Note that many claims against public authorities are negligent omissions cases. Initially, it was suggested that public authority cases should be dealt with in public law, however it is now accepted that public authority liability lies within common law principles. However it is submitted that the extensive use of ‘policy reasons’ and statutory excuses allows public authorities to avoid liability in many cases. This is shown by the cases of Stovin v Wise [1996] and X v Bedfordshire County Council [1995].

Public or private law?

In Stovin v Wise [1996], it was said that for a public authority to be sued on statutory grounds, there must be:

  • An irrational, non-exercise of power where there is a public law duty to act
  • Exceptional grounds for holding that compensation is payable

In X v Bedfordshire County Council [1995] it was said that where there is statutory discretion, the action in question is not within the ambit of discretion for a claim under common law. This was confirmed in Barret v Enfield London Borough Council [1999], where taking a child into care under statutory authority did not create a duty of care...

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