By Prof Antonia Layard, Professor of Law (University of Bristol Law School)
The Covid-19 virus has thrown both housing inequality and its corollary, a lack of access to green or open space, into sharp relief. For some, being told to stay home is boring, awkward and restrictive. For others, home has become a site of confinement, lacking any opportunity to play on grass, sit down in the sunshine or socialise at a safe distance.
At this time of national crisis, local authorities have demonstrated their powers to close parks without public consultation. Lambeth Council temporarily shut Brockwell Park for Sunday 5th April, announcing the news on Twitter, describing the revellers’ behaviour as “unacceptable” saying that it was acting “to comply with the national guidelines on social distancing needed fight Covid-19”. Victoria Park is closed for the foreseeable future, Tower Hamlets reaching their decision jointly with Hackney Police, due to “the failure of some visitors to follow social distancing guidance”. On Radio 4, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that these were decisions for the councils to make, noting only that: “I have asked them to be very judicious in taking that step and only to do that where they feel it is impossible to maintain social distancing rules within their parks or open spaces”. (more…)
UK Supreme Court clarifies when local authorities have a duty of care to protect victims from harm when carrying out their statutory functions
By Prof Paula Giliker, Professor of Comparative Law (University of Bristol Law School)
The question of local authority liability in negligence for failing to intervene to protect vulnerable parties from harm has been discussed by the highest UK courts in recent years. Local authorities have statutory powers to intervene to assist citizens in need. When, then, should they be liable for failing to intervene to protect citizens from harm from third parties? In recent years, the Supreme Court in two cases relating to the police sought to move away from policy-based analysis (seen famously in the controversial decision in X (Minors) v Bedfordshire CC  2 A.C. 633) to one based on traditional common law approaches to omissions and precedent: see Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales  UKSC 2 and Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire  UKSC 4. These cases draw an important distinction between a defendant who harms the claimant and one who fails to stop a third party harming the claimant. The second situation will not generally give rise to liability unless:
- A relationship exists between the parties in which one party assumes responsibility for the welfare of another; or
- The authority can be said to have created the source of danger or
- The third party who has harmed the claimant was under the defendant’s supervision or control.
The latest Supreme Court decision in Poole BC v GN  UKSC 25, delivered on 6 June 2019, marks an attempt by the Court to provide clearer guidance to litigants, while trying to reconcile somewhat contradictory earlier case-law. It is a rather complex decision – although given in a single judgment – and an important one. The purpose of this blog, therefore, is to explain the Court’s reasoning and give some indication of its implications for future case-law development. (more…)