Judgment of Heather Williams J in the case of KSO, KWS and KBS v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis  EWHC 2514 (QB) concerning police overtime was handed down on 10 October 2022. The Claimants were largely successful in their claims. The decision will have significant impact for police officers throughout the country, and also covers points of potential wider application. Ben Cooper KC and Roz Snocken of Old Square represented the Claimant KBS, instructed by Laura Thompson (and formerly Justin Quinton) of Slater & Gordon Solicitors.
The cases concerned claims brought by officers who worked in departments dealing with Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS – otherwise known as informants). They were test cases intended to give guidance applicable to hundreds of claims stayed pending the outcome of this trial. These claims follow the Court of Appeal ruling in Allard v Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall  EWCA Civ 42 that officers are recalled to duty when, by reason of their existing orders, they are required to respond to out of hours contact. The latest judgment covers how to calculate the consequential entitlements to overtime pay, time off in lieu, and damages where those entitlements were not properly granted. Since the terms and conditions of police officers are laid out in statutory regulations and associated determinations which are the same for all police forces, this judgment will have implications for all police officers who are on call or carry out unscheduled overtime as part of their duties.
It is also of potential interest beyond its application to police officers. In particular, for claims that relate to underpayments of some kind (not just under police regulations) over a number of years, the judgment is of assistance in indicating that it may not be necessary to prove with precision the specific amount of each instance of underpayment. The case illustrates how various models of sampling may be used and the potential to rely upon approximations and percentage estimates, provided that they are consistent with the other evidence available.
Heather Williams J also confirmed that police officers can bring breach of statutory duty claims for failure to afford them their entitlements to time off, on the basis that terms of engagement are of a kind that would ordinarily be privately enforceable and, in the absence of any other enforcement mechanism or indication to the contrary, Parliament must have intended that their terms should be similarly enforceable by way of a claim for breach of statutory duty. This ruling is likely to apply to other office holders whose terms are set by statute, unless there is provision for an alternative enforcement mechanism or other clear indication that there should be no right to claim for breach of statutory duty.
A copy of the public part of the judgment (the trial was heard partly in private due to involving matters of national security, confidentiality and the need to secure the proper administration of justice) is available at KSO & Ors v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis & Ors – Find case law (nationalarchives.gov.uk)
William Meade (Senior Clerk)