KD v Chief Constable of Hampshire [2005] EWHC 2550

Conduct of a police officer during interviews – Harassment – Damages – Human Rights

Facts

KD was interviewed by a police officer DC Hull (H) in an investigation of rape involving KD’s daughter and KD’s former partner. In the course of the investigation, H asked questions and required detailed answers involving intimate details about KD’s sexual history with her former partner. KD believed that this information was taken to satisfy H’s sexual interest and was not relevant to the case. KD also claimed that H visited and called her home for personal discussions about his or her private life unrelated to the investigation, touched her sexually, made sexual remarks to her, followed or stalked her in public places, and that H’s conduct amounted to harassment and assault (battery). KD raised an action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (1997 Act) against the Chief Constable of Hampshire (D), H’s employer, claiming damages for battery and harassment on the basis of vicarious liability for H’s conduct in the course of his employment.

Issue

D and H claimed that under section 1(3)(a) of the 1997 Act conduct pursued ‘for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime’ was a legitimate exception to the Act. D claimed that where H acted in the honest belief that the conduct was pursued for that purpose, there could be no liability under the 1997 Act.

Held
H’s course of conduct amounted to harassment and battery. The course of conduct by H was completely unacceptable as a police officer, and therefore could not come within the section 1(3)(a) exception of the 1997 Act as it was unnecessary and disproportionate to the aim of ‘preventing and detecting crime’ and therefore infringed KD’s right to private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. KD was awarded damages, and it was just and equitable for H to indemnify the D.