No Duty to Prevent Shop Robberies

Robbery not allowed

In Mitchell & Others v United Co-operatives [2012] EWCA Civ 348 the Court of Appeal was asked to consider the extent of an employer’s duty of care in respect of robberies from a shop. In doing so, it confirmed that the duty did not extend to preventing such robberies but only to taking reasonable steps to deter them.

The claimant employees worked in a convenience store which was the subject of repeated armed robberies. As a result they suffered post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

The store had once had screens installed which would protect the staff and prevent robbers jumping over the counter but those had been removed when Co-op had taken over the store.

The risk of the store being robbed was recognised by Co-op as being high and, although they removed the screens, several measures were put in place including CCTV, panic alarms connected to a central system and fob operated door locks. Nevertheless the Claimants argued that screens should have been installed and a guard provided in order to prevent robberies.

The expert evidence was to the effect that a permanent guard might well have avoided robberies but a part time guard would not nor would the screens. In fact the screens actually posed some risks as unless the staff had a means of escape (which they didn’t here) then a robber jumping behind the screens would likely be much more traumatic for the staff.

Against the background the claim failed both at trial and on appeal. The measures taken by Co-op were consistent with those taken by other retailers and were adequate to deter robberies even though they would not prevent them. As adequate steps had been taken to deter robberies there was no failure to  take reasonable care.

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Filed under Cases, Occupational Stress

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