Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd

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Home Office v Dorset Yacht Co Ltd [1970] AC 1004;

[1970] 2 WLR 1140; [1970] 2 All ER 294; [1970] 1 Lloyd's Rep. 453; (1970) 114 SJ 375



Seven boys detained in a bostral – a type of youth detention centre, were working on an island under the supervision of three officers. The bostral boys escaped from the island at night with the plaintiffs’ yacht and damaged it. The plaintiffs brought an action for damages against the Home Office which was in control of the bostrals on grounds that the officers on the island were negligent as they failed to exercise control and supervision over the boys. The Queen’s Bench held that the Home Office owed duty of care to the plaintiffs, which was capable of giving rise to liability in damages. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by the Home Office.


(1) Does the Home Office owe duty of care to private persons with respect to persons undergoing sentences of bostral training or the manner in which such persons were controlled while undergoing their sentences?

(2) Does public policy require that the supervisors of persons undergoing sentences of bostral training are immune from action and liability for the damages caused by such persons?


The appeal by the Home Office was dismissed.

(1) The bostral officers owe a duty to take such care as was reasonable in all the circumstances with the view of preventing the persons under their control from causing damage if there is a manifest risk if this duty is neglected.

(2) Public policy does not require that there should be immunity from action for bostral officers.

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