Elizabeth Robinson, a Yorkshire woman now in her eighties, has absolutely nothing in common with the ‘Black Cab rapist’ John Worboys – other than the fact that both of them are at the heart of two important Supreme Court decisions this month concerning the legal liability of police forces for harm to members of the public. Both decisions look to have extended forces’ liability, albeit in quite different areas.
The right to claim damages for loss of financial dependency and for statutory bereavement damages are set out separately in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Only those who fall within the categories listed in the Act are eligible. The courts have consistently refused to widen these statutory categories, most recently in Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which was decided on 8 September 2016.
It is difficult now to see any change here without statutory intervention. That looks quite unlikely, given that the Negligence and Damages Bill – a private member’s Bill in the 2015/16 Parliament that sought to effect changes to the law on fatal claims- simply lapsed without Government support.