In giving guidance on the appropriate level of protection employers must give their staff against the risk of violent crime, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a betting shop cashier who was traumatised during the course of an armed robbery should not have been awarded £9,000 compensation.
The teenage cashier was working at a bookmakers’ branch at 6.30pm on a winter evening when it was raided by two masked men armed with a handgun. She had the weapon pointed at her and was forced to let the gunman go behind the counter and to give him money from a safe. She was left hysterical and was physically sick due to the incident which had long-term psychiatric consequences.
She sued Ladbrokes Betting and Gaming Limited, claiming that not enough had been done to protect her from the foreseeable risk of a violent raid on the shop. She was awarded compensation by a county court judge who found that her employers could easily have reduced the threat to its staff by telling them to operate the magnetic lock on the front door during the hours of darkness and providing adequate lighting outside so that threatening individuals could be identified before entry.
Ladbrokes' lawyers argued on appeal that the store was in a ‘very nice area’ and had been viewed as a ‘low risk’ branch. Although there had been no previous robbery at the branch, it was nevertheless fitted with state-of-the-art security devices in compliance with industry standards.
In allowing the appeal, by a majority, the Court found that too high a standard of care had been imposed on Ladbrokes. Noting that retailers ‘are in the business of allowing customers into their shops rather than restricting them from entering’, the Court ruled that there had been no obligation on the company to enforce use of the magnetic lock at night.
Observing that robbers do not confine their raids to the hours of darkness, the Court found that the lock was used as a precaution when staff were away from their posts whilst the store was being opened or closed and that there was no duty to operate it during normal opening hours.