29 March, 2012
The court of appeal judgment handed down on Thursday in this landmark case confirms that retailers at risk of robberies will not be required to employ a permanent security guard.
The case involved three women who sought damages from their employer, United Co-operatives Limited for psychiatric injury sustained during multiple robberies at a Co-op late store in Stockport. The court heard that there were ten robberies between February 2000 and December 2005. As a result of these robberies, the Co-op responded with risk assessments in 2002 and 2003 which led to a range of security measures including CCTV inside and outside the shop, panic alarms, staff training and the provision of a part time security guard immediately after a robbery had taken place. However, it was argued that these deterrents were not sufficient and both a permanent security guard should have been employed and the screens taken out in 1999 following a store refit should have been replaced. These arguments were both rejected by the Court of Appeal.
Giving the leading judgment Lord Justice Ward said "the reasonable steps to be taken by the employer were to deter robberies" and "no employer could be expected to go so far as to prevent any robbery taking place at all"
Of the screens Ward LJ accepted the "causative potency" of the screens in so much that they would stop a robber jumping over the counter but he was not satisfied that they would be a deterrent against the employees sustaining psychiatric injury.
With regards to the use of a security guard there was evidence that the store was running at a loss of £60,000.00 per annum and a full time security guard would have cost £30,000.00 per annum. Ward LJ said "a proper approach requires a balance to be struck against the probable effectiveness of the precaution that can be taken and the expense that it involves". He was satisfied that the provision of a full time guard did not amount to a failure to take reasonable care for the claimants and thus dismissed the appeal.
Evidently stores have to be on the ball in terms of providing adequate security measures and carrying out risk assessments to try and deter robbers and thus try and prevent injury to their employees but for the court to have concluded that they should have to have employed a full time security guard on top of the deterrents already in place would have cost the retail industry millions. Cost implications were clearly on the mind of the court and fortunately for retailers, a common sense approach has been taken.