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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

Psychiatric Injury

Robbery of Betting Shop

Case Nicholls v Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming Ltd [2014] PIQR P4, CA

Statute reference Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

Facts N was employed by L as a cashier. In November 2007 the betting shop where she worked was robbed by two armed and masked men. N suffered psychiatric damage. She claimed compensation from L, alleging: • Negligence in that L had failed to keep the front door of the premises locked by operating the magnetic lock fitted to it. • Breach of statutory duty in failing to carry out a proper risk assessment required by the 1999 Regulations. • Failure to provide suitable lighting in breach of the 1992 Regulations. L denied all the claims. At first instance, the claims succeeded. The judge found that the defence evidence was unsatisfactory and included deliberate falsehoods. No risk assessment document was produced. No policy or guidance had been laid down in relation to the use of the magnetic lock, other than at opening and closing times, and it should have been in use during the hours of darkness. Proper lighting should have been maintained outside the premises. N was awarded £9000 compensation. L appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Decision 1. The appeal was allowed. 2. The trial judge had not been allowed to find on the evidence that there had been no proper risk assessment dealing with the risk of robbery at L’s premises. 3. The betting shop had been designated as at low risk of robbery because of its location. 4. The use of the magnetic lock was within the discretion of the manager on duty at the time. 5. N had not shown that the installation of a magnetic lock at a betting shop was perceived within the industry as an essential security measure. 6. There had been no previous robbery at the premises and no particular or heightened risk was perceived to attach to them.

A previous case with similar facts is that of Dutton and Clark v Daly (1985). D was employed as a clerk by a building society. The office in which she worked was protected by heavy glass, alarms, a steel plate and a dummy camera. There were two armed robberies. D resigned because she was too frightened to continue working at the office. She complained of unfair constructive dismissal for failure on the part of her employer to provide a safe system of work. The industrial tribunal (as it then was) upheld her complaint on the basis that the precautions had been inadequate. The employer appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The appeal was allowed. The test was an objective one. The question for the tribunal was whether the precautions which had in fact been taken were those which would have been taken by a reasonable employer. Another earlier case is Keys v Shoefayre Ltd (1978). Following an armed robbery at a shoe shop in Peckham, the shop staff asked the manager what he proposed to do to protect them. He replied that there was little that he could do. Three weeks later there was another armed robbery. K, a member of staff, resigned and complained of unfair constructive dismissal. The industrial tribunal decided that the company’s failure to take any steps for the employee’s safety amounted to constructive dismissal. It was a fundamental term of contract of employment that an employer would take reasonable care to operate a safe system of work and take reasonable care to have reasonably safe premises. A related example is the case of Panting v Whitbread plc (1998). P was employed as a pub manager from 1989 until 1993. He claimed that throughout this period he, his wife and employees were subjected to violence, threats, thefts and burglaries. He stated that this had caused him to suffer permanent psychiatric damage in the nature of anxiety and depression. P’s action was based on an alleged breach of the implied term of his contract of employment that the employer would take all reasonable precautions for P’s safety. P claimed that the employer knew that the pub was a difficult one but had given him no formal training and had failed to look after him. He claimed compensation in the county court. The claim failed for the following reasons: 1. P was not significantly more vulnerable than the average person. 2. He was qualified to run the pub without formal training because of his previous experience in the trade. 3. It had been reasonable for the employer to ask P to run the pub despite its difficulties. 4. P had not notified his employer of the assaults. 5. The employer had in place a comprehensive set of arrangements aimed at managers who suffered in the same way as P. It had done as much as was reasonably required in the circumstances.

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