Should negligent police compensate crime victims?

“If a woman is assaulted or killed and police don’t do all they can to protect her from attack, should the police be held liable in negligence?” In Australia, the law is unclear. The NT police reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with Tiffany Paterson, whose complaints were ignored by police before she was beaten and slashed in the face by her former partner. In WA, the family of Andrea Pickett are suing the police for their failure to prevent her being brutally murdered in front of her daughter. Australian lawyers are attempting to develop this area of the common law because in the UK, the High Court awarded damages to two victims of a serial rapist. It held that “a series of systemic failings” breached “a duty imposed upon the police to conduct investigations into particularly severe violent acts perpetrated by private parties in a timely and efficient manner”. However, the UK claim was brought under the Human Rights Act 1998 (UK), and no equivalent legislation exists in Australia.

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