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Damages for psychiatric injury caused by drug use non-recoverable
In AB v Chief Constable of X Constabulary the High Court has held that psychiatric injury suffered by an undercover police officer was not caused by the employer’s breach of its duty of care but instead as a result of his misuse of cocaine.
The Claimant was an undercover police officer who lost his position after it was discovered that, on more than one occasion, he had used cocaine whilst undercover. Once this was discovered he was removed from his post following a confrontation with his superiors over his drug use, and was deployed to a different role in another region. He was diagnosed as having a chronic adjustment disorder. The High Court determined that the psychiatric injury was caused by his loss of status and identity almost immediately following the confrontation with his superiors rather than through any breach of duty of care owed to him by the Chief Constable. The Judge commented that the principle of not being able to recover damages as a consequence of your own criminal act was the critical principle here, because the Claimant had lost his post as an undercover officer as a result of his own criminal actions in taking illegal drugs and it was this which had caused his psychiatric injury. The Judge held that this principle must hold true even if there were elements of breach of duty by the Defendant in failing to properly care for his welfare – if damages for psychiatric injury under these circumstances could be awarded it would prejudice the integrity of the legal system.
This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.
For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.
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