- Litigation Futures - https://www.litigationfutures.com -

High Court: not “in best interests” of officer who used cocaine to sue police for psychiatric injury

High Court [1]

Males J: For much of hearing AB was “highly distressed”

A High Court judge has said it was not in the “best interests” of a former undercover police officer who used cocaine “on more than one occasion” to sue his police force for psychiatric injury.

Mr Justice Males said going to court had forced the man, referred to as AB, to “relive in the relentless and unforgiving scrutiny of the forensic process the humiliation which he suffered when his misconduct came to light”.

Males J said: “It was only too evident in court that this was (as it was always going to be) a painful experience for him. For much of the hearing he appeared highly distressed. As the experts agreed, the stress of this litigation is likely to have obstructed his recovery.

“This was a man who for many years gave valuable service to his country, at frequent risk to his own life and limb, whose work has contributed to the conviction of major criminals and who in other circumstances could rightly have held his head high amongst his peers.”

The court heard in AB v Chief Constable of X Constabulary [2015] EWHC 13 (QB) [2] that AB was “extremely good” at his job and “greatly enjoyed” it, despite the dangers.

Males J described him as “admired and respected as an outstandingly effective and successful undercover officer” with a “national reputation”.

However, when the misconduct came to light, he used words like “gutted” and “ashamed” and accepted that his behaviour was “at least a cause of a successful undercover operation having folded”.

AB claimed damages for psychiatric injury on the grounds that the police force breached its duty of care in failing to provide him with “appropriate support” during his period undercover.

The defendant denied breach of duty and rejected his arguments on causation.

Males J said the claimant did not accept that he was responsible for his misuse of cocaine.

“He insisted that a situation had been allowed to develop whereby his invented criminal persona had effectively taken over his life. He claimed that it was this invented person and not his true self who had taken the cocaine.”

However, the judge ruled that the mental disorder from which the claimant suffered was “caused by the fact that he was confronted with his own misconduct and that he had to face the traumatic consequences of this”.

Males J ruled that AB’s claim also failed on the grounds of ex turpi causa and his voluntary use of cocaine, which he did not lack capacity to know was wrong.

“The psychological injury suffered by the claimant was caused by his own misconduct,” he concluded. “There will be judgment for the defendant.”

Slater & Gordon acted for AB, but nobody at the firm was available to comment.