Judge cuts family’s damages payment

A £50,000 damages award by a High Court judge who ruled that police had failed to do enough to protect a murder victim who had been threatened by his killer has been halved by London s Appeal Court. However, the test case ruling nevertheless established a

A £50,000 damages award by a High Court judge who ruled that police had failed to do enough to protect a murder victim who had been threatened by his killer has been halved by London's Appeal Court.

However, the test case ruling nevertheless established an important principle that police can be held liable if they fail in their duty.

The cut in damage came after a challenge by Hertfordshire Police to the award against them following a claim by the family of optician Giles Van Colle who was shot dead by a man he was to give evidence against in a court case.

In the High Court in March last year Mrs Justice Cox awarded the damages backing an argument by the lawyers for the Van Colle family that police did insufficient to protect 25-year-old Mr Van Colle from Daniel Brougham who lived in Christie Road, Stevenage.

They argued that Mr Van Colle's human rights to life and to private and family life had been infringed.

On Tuesday that High Court judge's view that the police must take the blame received full backing from the appeal judges.

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In their appeal, police claimed that the ruling could have "significant resource implications" and could lead to a string of other similar claims from other families who blame the police for failing to protect witnesses.

While ruling that the damages should be cut, one of the country's most senior judges, Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke, made it clear that the police still had to take responsibility for their shortcomings.

He said that when she made the award and found the police to blame Mrs Justice Cox had held that if the witness protection policy had been complied with there would have been "a real prospect that Giles' life would have been saved".

She had ruled that more likely than not his death would have been avoided had the correct steps been taken. The police argued that the judge was wrong in her decision.

Sir Anthony said that if the police had acted as they should have done, it was highly likely that Brougham's bail would have been revoked, he would have been remanded in custody and that Giles Van Colle would not have been murdered.

Mr Van Colle's family claimed that despite the police knowing about intimidation by Brougham they not only did nothing to protect Giles but did not even address the need to protect him.

Brougham, who used a variety of names but was born in Iran as Ali Amelzadeh, was convicted of killing Mr Van Colle and jailed for life at the Old Bailey in March 2002.

Halving the amount of damages to Mr Van Colle's estate and his parents, Sir Anthony said: "Of course, money cannot compensate for the respondents' loss of their son, but this seems to us to be the right level of award.

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