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As a result of a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, victims and survivors of serious crime may be able to sue the police for failures in their investigations.

The case concerned two of John Worboy’s rape victims who had previously received compensation as a result of the handling of their cases by the Met Police. The Met had appealed against this decision, however, yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the previous judgments.

The women had argued their treatment by police breached their human rights. They argued the handling of their cases caused them mental harm. They brought their claims under article three of the Human Rights Act - the right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.

The ruling is highly significant, both for victims of serious violent crime and for the police forces that investigate them. It means that if a police force conducts an investigation into the crime and is deemed to fail in a way which is deemed “sufficiently serious” it may be liable to a human rights action by the complainant.

Supreme Court Justice Lord Kerr said: "By a majority, we have held that failures in the investigation of the crimes, provided they are sufficiently serious, will give rise to liability on the part of the police. He continued: "The important point to make is that, if the investigation is seriously defective, even if no systemic failures are present, this will be enough to render the police liable."

In 2010, a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission identified many serious failings in the police investigation in Worboys. It is expected that many more claims are likely to follow from survivors of Worboy’s crimes.

Additionally, the case is likely to have a wider impact on other victims and survivors of serious violent crime who also feel let down by serious police failings. Until now, police could not be found to be negligent for generally failing to identify and apprehend an unknown suspect.

To bring a claim for breach of Human Rights claims must be brought within one year of the alleged breach. It is important, therefore, that if you have concerns you seek advice as soon as possible

Our team led by Natalie Marrison have extensive experience in pursuing compensation claims arising on behalf of survivors against public bodies, including the police. . In addition we will provide advice on setting aside any limitation issues. For a completely confidential discussion please contact Ramsdens Child Abuse team on 0113 8871 834.

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