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Van Colle & Anor v Hertfordshire Police [2007] EWCA Civ 325 (24 April 2007)


Damages for breach of a duty to take preventive measures to protect a vulnerable witnes. Where it was established that the state authorities knew or ought to have known of the existence of a real and immediate risk to the life of an individual as a result of the criminal acts of a third party, the state had a positive obligation under Article 2 of the ECHR to take preventive, operational measures to protect that individual. That obligation was breached if they failed to take the measures, within the scope of their powers, which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk. The question should be considered in the context that the deceased was a witness for the prosecution in a criminal trial, and not simply a member of the public at large. The judge had taken two inappropriate matters into account when assessing the damages; as a consequence of this the awards were too high.