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Thompson v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1998] QB 498

JURY DIRECTIONS – AGGRAVATED DAMAGES

Facts

The case concerned two conjoined actions by claimants who had been manhandled, assaulted, and abused by police officers employed by the defendant. Both brought claims for a combination of assault, personal injury, malicious persecution, and wrongful imprisonment. At first instance, both were awarded aggravated damages. The defendant appealed against the award of aggravated damages in each case, arguing that the judge had improperly directed the jury on the issue of aggravated damages and that the awards were excessive.

Issue

The issue concerned the appropriate directions which should be given to the jury in a claim for compensatory and aggravated damages.

Held

The court emphasised the need to give the jury stronger guidance in determining the quantum of damages in claims for false imprisonment or malicious persecution, on account of the need for consistency. In this regard, a separate award should be made for each category of damages in order to ensure transparency.

With respect of compensatory damages, the judge should indicate to the jury appropriate upper and lower limits. Where an award of exemplary damages was appropriate, the judge should direct that this should not be punitive although it may contain a penal element. He should propose a starting figure and direct that the award should generally be less than twice the basic award.

In this case, the lack of such direction had led the jury to award excessive damages. The court therefore substituted the awards for lower sums.


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