Jacueline Collins was employed in the Defendants’ off licence and sought damages for post traumatic stress disorder and depression triggered by an armed robbery which occurred in May of 1998.
The robbery occurred at approximately midday.
The door was burst open by men wearing masks made from balaclavas. They shouted to M/s Collins not to press the alarm button, however, she did so.
One of the robbers then threw her against a set of shelves and held a knife to her throat.
She was then ordered to open the floor safe and was put into the cellar whilst the robbers made their escape.
It was accepted that M/s Collins was extremely distressed by the incident and that her subsequent development of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) followed as a consequence of the incident.
M/s Collins’ case of fault was based upon the Defendants’ failure to introduce twin precautions of security screens and/or double manning. It was not disputed by the Defendants that as they operated the shop, they had a duty of care to those employed in the shop to take reasonable care to protect them from the actions of criminals and violent customers, albeit that the risk could not be entirely eliminated.
The Defendants adduced evidence of their intensive training programme and that the use of screens in retail outlets was seen very much as a last resort method of security, albeit, the Court found that they were, no doubt, an effective method of deterring robberies, particularly of the relatively casual sort.
(1) Given the limited number of incidents occurring in the shop prior to the robbery in May 1998, the Court held that the Defendants’ criterion for the installation of screens was a reasonable one to apply and did not consider it was reasonable for the Defendants to install security screens in this branch prior to the robbery.
(2) That the level of training was adequate.
(3) The Court found that the Defendants double manning policy was unreasonable. The policy was based on double manning during perceived high risk periods between 6 pm and 10 pm and, according to research carried out by Ladbrokes Betting Offices, it was just as much a robbery when two or three members of staff were on duty as with only one.
The Court found that based upon the evidence of a Crime Prevention Officer, it was reasonable to take the step of double manning as M/s Collins was in a particularly vulnerable position, being left alone in a shop susceptible to violent attack and in charge of substantial quantities of cash and stock. That double manning was in accordance with advice given by local Police to the Defendants and that even if the robbery had taken place, the prospect of M/s Collins being threatened in the way that she had, would have been much diminished by the existence of double manning to the extent that the psychological injury she sustained would been materially reduced.
Awarded £24,000 general damages, £155,000 special damages.