Since the establishment of the NSW Police Force in 1862, they have adopted the motto “Culpam poena premit comes” which translates to “Punishment swiftly follows crime”. The case of Rice v Connolly  2 QB 414 established the principle that a police officer as part of their obligation and duties is to take all steps which appear to them necessary for keeping the peace, for preventing crime or for protecting property from criminal injury. There is no exhaustive definition of the powers and obligations of the police, but there are at least those, and they would further include the duty to detect crime and to bring an offender to justice.
This widely defined duty begs the following questions – what happens when the police do not bring the offender to justice? What happens when the police officers fail in their duty of care?
Smith -v- State Of Victoria  VSC 475
The case of Smith -v- State Of Victoria  VSC 475 provided a sufficient answer to those exact questions. This case established the principles of police failing in their duty of care in respect to AVDO proceedings.
In this case, the plaintiff relied on the relationship of proximity that existed between the police officers and the plaintiffs in pleading that police had a duty to prevent breaches of an Intervention Order (IVO).
The court turned to the following features in deciding whether or not the plaintiff had a claim against the police for a breach of duty of care;
- The control that the police had to ensure compliance with the IVO;
- The reasonable foreseeability of harm taking into account various police policy documents
- Whether or not the Police officers had actual knowledge of the breaches and repeated offences.
The court ultimately upheld the plaintiff’s case and established a duty of care between the police and the plaintiff.