Assault at work trial: NHS TRUST negligent

The claimant was a staff nurse in a mental health department. She was watching over  two psychotic patients in a locked psychiatric ward.

The claimant had been working on the ward with the deputy ward manager, who then left the ward without telling the claimant or offering her assistance from another colleague.

The patients were calm and watching television so she went into the clinical room (just off the ward) to record their vital signs. As she was in the clinical room, she heard one of the patients calling her name. She saw that one of the patients was sat on the others lap and was rubbing her face against the other patient. The claimant immediately pulled her alarm and walked towards the patients to try to calm them down until somebody came to her assistance.

Her alarm continued to ring and nobody came to her aid and the patient did not move. She then walked towards the first set of locked doors to get assistance. As she was trying to unlock the first door, one of the patients came up behind her and punched her with both fists around her head and neck. During this assault, the claimant managed to unlock the door and throw her alarm out so others could hear it.

Two of her colleagues came to her aid approximately four minutes after she had first pulled the alarm.

The defendant made no concessions. It was their case that the claimant would never have been left alone without being told and offered assistance or the opportunity to leave the ward if she felt frightened. They stated that this was their practice but provided no documentary evidence to support this.

The defendant also stated that, even if they were found to be in breach, this breach was not causative of the injuries suffered. They alleged that the client physically intervened between the two patients and was the author of her own misfortune. The Judge preferred the evidence of the claimant and believed that, according to her training, she had attempted to verbally ‘de-escalate ’ the situation and had not physically intervened. The Judge accepted that the claimant’s alarm was working and that the time it took for her colleagues to come to her aid was four minutes.

In his Judgment the DJ found that the defendant did not have a safe system of work or proper management at the time of the assault. He was shocked that the ward manager claimed to have no knowledge of the assault and was not on the scene afterwards and this played a part in his finding the claimant’s evidence was to be preferred to the defendant on the issue of why she was alone.

He made several references to a tragic murder of the claimant’s colleague that occurred two years later on the same ward.

As a result of this, the ward has been made more secure with wall-mounted alarms and CCTV footage.  Judgment for the claimant for £17,014.07 including interest.

Clarke -v- South West London & St Georges Mental Health NHS Trust, Croydon County Court, 4 July 2005.

Assault: joint enterprise to point out a house where assault to take place

A woman pointed out a house to a man where she thought a third party lived. She said she expressed concern to the man to whom she gave directions that he was not to commit a violent crime. The man later entered the property she had pointed out and attacked the resident with a knife. The resident died. It turned out she had given the wrong address and the resident was not the intended third party victim.


  • by giving directions to the house when she knew there was a possible intention to commit injury she became part of a common enterprise: Credit Lyonnais Nederland NV -v- Export Credits Guarantee Department (1999) CLC 823 at 825.
  • she was NOT liable for the use of a knife but was liable for the estate’s discomfort at the assault without reference to personal injury and aggravated damages for the fear felt by the victim from the moment the assailant entered the property until the assault.

Shah -v -Gale (2005) EWHC 1087 QB

An individual cannot bring a civil claim against another if they have brought a private criminal prosecution against them.

They have to choose between one or the other.

( This rule does not apply if a normal state prosecution has been brought by the C.P.S. )

Miller -v- Phelan

From APIL PI Focus June 2005