Court of Appeal judgment saves retailers millions

Retailers will be saved millions of pounds in additional costs after a Court of Appeal judgment handed down today confirms that they should not be required to employ a permanent security guard at any stores at risk of robbery.


The case saw three employees at a Co-op convenience store near Stockport, Greater Manchester seek compensation from their employer, United Co-operatives Limited, for psychiatric injuries caused by multiple robberies at the store.


Roddy MacLeod, head of the Commercial Insurance team at national law firm Weightmans LLP, acted for United Co-operatives Limited in the case. He explained that the issue at the heart of this case was whether employers should be expected to prevent any robbery taking place at their stores or not.


“Over a period of six years, there were ten robberies at the Co-op store and the employees who brought this claim were involved, between them, in three separate robberies.”


The Court of Appeal rarely hears such claims and this case allowed it to examine how far an employer’s duty to take reasonable steps to deter robberies should be taken.


The claims first came to trial before the Manchester County Court on 26 November 2010. There the Judge dismissed the claim for compensation, noting that United Co-operatives Limited had carried out two risk assessments and put a number of security precautions in place which included some nine different security measures amongst which were CCTV monitoring in and outside the store, installing panic alarms and the provision of a mobile security response team.


The three members of staff appealed to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that counter screens should have been put in place and that permanent security guards should have been positioned outside the store to protect them; but both of these arguments were rejected by the Court of Appeal.


“United Co-operatives Limited takes the security of its staff seriously and had put a raft of security measures in place to protect their employees. Today’s ruling from the Court of Appeal confirms that it had taken sufficient steps – the Court of Appeal accepted that its policy on crime prevention compared ‘very favourably indeed’ with those of other retailers,” Roddy said.


Lord Justice Ward said that ‘no employer could be expected to go so far as to prevent any robbery taking place at all’.


Roddy continued:


“This is a common sense decision for retailers. Retailers would have incurred millions of pounds in additional security costs if the Court of Appeal had ruled that the store here was required to employ a permanent security guard outside the store, and this would have set a new standard to try and prevent robberies taking place.”


Roddy warns that the decision reinforces the need for retailers to ensure adequate risk assessments are carried out:


“Store robberies are an ongoing area of concern for many retailers, and as such they need to take a strict approach to risk assessments. Appropriate security measures – such as those employed by the Co-op – should be put in place to try and protect employees.”

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