Police officer will keep compensation over cut thumb

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The Royal Courts of Justice.
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A POLICE officer who cut her thumb while dismantling a cannabis factory will keep her damages award of nearly £5,000 after suing Hampshire Constabulary.

Kerry Ann Taylor was injured while disposing of plants and equipment at a house in Southsea in September 2008.

It was hot with poor ventilation, and because she felt nauseous from the smell of the cannabis, the police officer decided to open a window.

Not noticing it had been sealed, PC Taylor, who was wearing latex gloves to protect against skin irritation, pushed at the glass which broke and her right hand went through.

The officer sued Hampshire Constabulary and a judge at Winchester County Court found in her favour.

He ruled that the police were in breach of their duty under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, by failing to provide PC Taylor with thick gloves to protect against sharp edges, and said that had she been wearing them, the injury probably would not have happened.

At the Court of Appeal in London today, two judges dismissed the police force’s appeal against the finding.

The courts awarded £5,024 in compensation to PC Taylor.

Hampshire police must also pay approximately £150,000 for her legal fees.

The police force’s insurers cover all costs above £100,000 including costs of the appeal, and the force’s external legal fees of approximately £40,000.

Lord Justice Elias said there was an obligation to provide thick gloves at the time to protect against the risk of injury as the operation could involve her carrying out a whole range of tasks, not just removing the plants.

Roger Trencher is Hampshire Constabulary’s force solicitor.

He said: ‘We are considering the ruling of the appeal court in upholding judgement in the case of PC Taylor, and whether there are lessons to be learned from it.

‘We have always taken a firm position that we will defend claims where the specialist advice received is that the claimant is not legally entitled to compensation from the constabulary.

‘We were advised by experienced counsel that we had a strong case for appeal and took the action we felt appropriate. However, on this occasion the court found against us.

‘Costs of more than £100,000 were incurred by the claimant at the first hearing. We pay the first £100,000 of any action, and insurance covers any remittance above this, which in this case includes the cost of the appeal and our external legal fees.

‘Our appeal in this case also challenged the level of costs awarded against the chief constable, on the grounds that we succeeded in defending most of the original claim.

‘In light of the decision, we will look again at the decision-making process for appeals, as we are conscious at all times that we have a duty to make the very best use of public money, and this requires that claims that the constabulary is advised are without merit are defended and others resolved.’