Suing detectives

David Carson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and the United Kingdom you can sue a negligent doctor, but not a negligent detective. You can sue both doctors and detectives in Canada and South Africa. Why the difference? Would making detectives liable for negligent police investigations improve their decision making or, as many judges assert, increase risk aversion and divert significant resources from tackling crime? This article explains the civil law of negligence but criticises its judicial application in cases of alleged negligent investigation. It argues that the current position is no longer sustainable. As increasingly recognised by senior judges, legislative intervention is inevitable and overdue. Police forces should not be opposing change but preparing to manage the consequences by seizing the opportunities available to ensure that a learning paradigm is embedded within a new scheme which limits costs and prevents many of the problems which the judges, albeit exaggeratedly, predict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-28
Number of pages18
JournalThe Police Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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