Tindall v Chief Constable Of Thames Valley Police in the Supreme Court

Nicholas Bowen KC and David Lemer appeared last week in the Supreme Court, together with Duncan Fairgrieve KC (Hon) in Tindall v Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police. The Court of Appeal decision is here. The case follows on from Nicholas, David & Duncan’s earlier appearances in Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire [2018] UKSC 4 and Michael v Chief Constable of South Wales [2015] UKSC 2, Supreme Court judgments which had established / reconfigured the modern law of negligence in relation to both the liability of public authorities and the individual.  Tindall is the latest case in this vexed area which, following the Supreme Court’s restrictive decisions analysing assumption of responsibility as a bases for negligence liability in the child protection cases of Poole BC v GN [2019] UKSC 25 and HXA v Surrey CC [2022] EWCA Civ 1196, addresses the question as to whether positive negligent acts need to be identified when seeking to argue that a party has made matters worse, together with the status and scope of the exceptions to the omission’s principle.


On 4 March 2014, Mr Kendall's car skidded on a patch of black ice on the A413 road, causing him to lose control and roll over into a ditch. Concerned by the state of the road, after making an emergency call, he stood by the road signalling cars to slow down.

Around 20 minutes later, police officers attended the scene. They started clearing up debris from the accident and put up a "Police Slow" sign up. After warning the police about the dangerous state of the road, Mr Kendall left to visit the hospital to tend for non-life-threatening injuries he had suffered. It is alleged that, but for the arrival of the police, Mr Kendell would have continued attempts to alert road users of the danger. Having cleared the debris, and after Mr Kendall had gone to hospital, the police officers removed the "Police Slow" sign and left the scene, with the road in the same condition as it had been previously. They did so in the belief that there was no hazard and having failed to discover or inspect the sheet ice.

About an hour after the first accident, at 5.45am Mr Malcom Tindall was killed in a second accident when his car was hit by an oncoming vehicle which had skidded on the ice (the driver, Mr Bird, was also killed).

The Appellant, widow and administratix of the estate of Mr Tindall, brought a claim against the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, the Respondent, alleging the police's conduct at the scene of the accident was negligent and that the Chief Constable is vicariously liable.

The Chief Constable applied to strike out the Appellant's claim as disclosing no reasonable cause of action or, alternatively, for summary judgment. The application failed at first instance but succeeded on appeal before the Court of Appeal. The Appellant now appeals to the Supreme Court.

Nicholas, David & Duncan are instructed by Joel Leigh of Howard Kennedy solicitors