The House of Lords said the Borstal authorities owed a duty of care to the owners of the property near the camp

The House of Lords said the Borstal authorities owed a duty of care to the owners of the property near the camp

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1. Did the Home Office, its servants, or agents owe a duty of care
to Dorset Yacht Co?

In this case, there were ten borstal trainees working on an island in
a harbour in the custody and under the control of three officers.
During the night, seven of them escaped, after the officers had gone
to bed and left the trainees to their own devices. The seven got on
board a yacht moored off the island, and set the boat in motion. They
collided with another yacht, the property of the respondent, and
damaged it.

The House of Lords said the Borstal authorities owed a duty of care to
the owners of the property near the camp, as the taking of the yacht
and the causing of damage to the other yacht ought to have been
foreseen as likely to occur if the borstal officers failed to exercise
proper control or supervision, meaning that the officers owed a duty
of care to the respondents.

Another case which shows how one party owed duty of care was in Jolley
v Sutton LBC (1998). In this case Defendant, the owners of land where
an old boat had been abandoned for about two years. Claimant; a 14
year old boy who was seriously injured when he and a friend had
propped it up on a car jack while they tried to repair the boat that
fell on him.

In this case, the judge observed that the boat would be something that
would attract children to meddle with, and some injury was foreseeable
if children played around with it, as the structure was unsafe. The
occupier therefore had a duty to protect a child from danger caused by
meddling with such an object by taking reasonable steps in the
circumstances including, where appropriate, removing the object
altogether as so to avoid the prospect of injury.

Lord Hoffmann quoted Lord Steyn with regard to duty of care:

…a duty to take such care as in all circumstances of the case is

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reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using
the premises for the purpose for which he is invited or permitted by
the occupier to be there…

The Defendant was therefore held liable for not removing the boat, and
the claimant won.

On the other hand, a case in which duty of care did not exist, was
Knight v Home Office (1990). In this case, the Defendant, Home Office
responsible for prisons where a 21 year old mentally ill prisoner
committed suicide while in the hospital wing of Brixton Prison.
Claimant, the deceased’s personal representative suing on behalf of
his infant son. The prisoner was known to have suicidal tendencies
and was on 15 minute watch.

The argument that the same standard of care applied to prison as to
psychiatric hospitals failed, as the primary function of the prison
was to detain the inmates and, although the prison was required to
care for physically and mentally ill prisoners, it could not be
expected to provide the same degree of care as hospitals outside.

There was no evidence that the prison doctors were negligent in their
care. The Claimant lost.


2. Was there a breach of duty?



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