The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Chadwick v British Transport Commission [1967] 2 All ER 945

What's the case about?
On a foggy evening in December 1957 a steam train crashed into a stationary electric train just north of Lewisham.  The steam train was thrown to the left and damaged the pillar of an overhead railway bridge, causing it to collapse.  Both trains were packed (it was estimated that they were carrying over 2000 passengers between them) and 89 people died.  This photo, from a parliamentary report into the crash, shows the extent of the carnage.

A huge rescue effort commenced and a number of local people joined in, including Mr Chadwick, who lived in a street backing on to the railway line.  Mr Chadwick spent the night pulling the injured and the dead from the wreckage.  He was a small man and at one point he crawled into a damaged carriage to give an injured passenger an injection as the doctor was too large to crawl in himself.

After the accident Mr Chadwick's mental health deteriorated.  He lost weight and was unable to sleep.   A psychiatrist diagnosed him as having suffered a "catastrophic neurosis"He died in 1962, of reasons unconnected to the crash.  Mrs Chadwick brought a claim against the train operator on behalf of her late husband.  The train operator accepted that their negligence had caused the crash but denied that they had owed a duty of care to a voluntary rescuer such as Mr Chadwick.  

Where is it on the map? 
At point b.
Who won?

Mrs Chadwick won.  The High Court held that the train operator had owed Mr Chadwick a duty of care even though he had been a voluntary rescuer, and had not suffered any physical injury. 

What's the principle of law?
The case is authority for a number of principles of law:
  • A defendant may be liable for injury caused to a person even when the person has put themselves in harm's way, where it was  reasonably foreseeable that they might try to help a rescue effort.
  • A defendant may be liable for psychiatric damage caused to a person, even when he or she is not also physically hurt.  
  • It is not possible to escape liability for psychiatric injury on grounds of remoteness where there is nothing in the claimant's personality that would make them particularly sensitive to psychiatric injury. 
What's it like today?
The collapsed bridge was replaced by a temporary structure a month after the crash.  I have not been able to substantiate the claim that the bridge in use today is in fact the 'temporary' bridge.  

A parliamentary report into the crash recommended that new, automatic, signalling be installed on the railway network.  A plaque in Lewisham station commemorates the lives lost.

This short newsreel shows the aftermath of the crash, and includes interviews with some visibly shaken members of the public who, like Mr Chadwick, had joined the rescue effort:

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Roberts v Hopwood [1925] AC 578

What's the case about?
In 1920, Poplar Borough Council resolved to pay the same rate to its lowest grade of staff, regardless of whether they were male or female.  The cost of living fell sharply in the 1921/22 financial year, but the Council continued to pay its lowest grade of staff the same rate.  The district auditor challenged the councillors' decision on the grounds that the pay was excessive and that there was no lawful reason to pay women the same rates as men.  The councillors argued that they were merely exercising the discretion conferred on them by the Metropolis Management Act 1855 which gave councils the power to pay such wages as they think fit.

Where is it on the map? 
At point a.

Who won?

The auditor won. The House of Lords held that, whilst the councillors had a legal discretion to set wage rates, they had exceeded that discretion by paying so far above the market rate and by paying women the same as men. Lord Atkinson said that the Council had acted unlawfully because they had:
"...allowed themselves to be guided in preference by some eccentric principles of socialistic philanthropy, or by a feminist ambition to secure the equality of the sexes in the matter of wages in the world of labour."
What's the principle of law?
Equal pay legislation means that the parts of the judgment which discuss whether it is lawful to pay men the same as women no longer represent the state of the law, but the principle that a discretion should only be exercised in a lawful way is still good law.  As Lord Wrenbury said in his judgment:

"A discretion does not empower a man to do what he likes merely because he is minded to do so - he must in the exercise of his discretion do not what he likes but what he ought. In other words, he must, by use of his reason, ascertain and follow the course which reason directs. He must act reasonably."
What's it like today?
Poplar Borough Council was abolished in 1965, and is the area it served is now part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  
From London's Coats of arms and the stories they tell, Richard Crosley, 1928.
Poplar Town Hall survived as a public building until 2011, when the mayor, Lufthar Rahman, sold it to an associate.  It soon received planning permission to be converted into a hotel.
Building work has already started. 

You can read more about Poplar's radical history, and the circumstances around the Town Hall's sale, here