Hill v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire  UKHL 12,  AC 53 was a significant case in English tort law that established the concept of a duty of care in relation to the police's duty to protect the public from harm caused by third parties.
The case involved the Yorkshire Ripper, who had killed 13 women between 1975 and 1980. The plaintiff, the mother of the last victim, sued the police for negligence, claiming that they had failed to take reasonable steps to apprehend the killer, despite having received several clues and warnings about his identity.
The House of Lords held that the police owed no duty of care to a member of the public in respect of the investigatory and operational decisions taken by them in the course of conducting an investigation. The Court further held that imposing such a duty of care would be undesirable on public policy grounds, as it could lead to the police being deterred from carrying out their duties effectively.
This case was overruled in Robinson v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  by the Supreme Court which reviewed the decision in Hill and clarified the scope of the police's duty of care towards members of the public. The Supreme Court held that the principle in Hill did not provide a blanket immunity to the police for all operational decisions, and that the existence of a duty of care would depend on the specific facts of each case. The Court also held that the police could owe a duty of care to members of the public in situations where they had created or enhanced the risk of harm to the public.
You can learn more about this topic and other relevant case law with our Tort Law notes.