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Investigating and supervising officers handling disciplinary matters did not act as agents of the chief officer for the purposes of claims made under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976.
There were five conjoined appeals arising out of claims made by serving police officers under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976 . The appeals all concerned the ability of police officers to sue their chief officer in respect of the alleged discriminatory handling of disciplinary matters by investigating and supervising officers under the Police (Discipline) Regulations 1985 and the Police (Conduct) Regulations 1999 . The applicant police officers had made various complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976. They maintained that the terms "agent" and "principal" under the Acts ought to be given an ordinary everyday meaning, that is, they ought not to be read as referring to the principle of agency at common law. On that basis, they contended that the acts and omissions of investigating and supervising officers were ones for which the chief officer might be liable under the Acts.
HELD: Agency was not a concept of ordinary language. The terms "agent" and "principal" in the Acts referred to agency at common law. The only change when considering the application of those principals to the statutes was that, in the Acts, both the principal and the agent were liable in discrimination. In contrast, under the Regulations, officers within the police force were given various responsibilities. The Regulations prohibited the chief officer from carrying out the duties of an investigating officer or from delegating those duties. Thus, the chief officer was not to be involved in any case in which he had an interest; thereby preserving both actual and apparent impartiality. Although the chief officer was required to appoint investigating and supervising officers, thereafter those officers carried out the functions prescribed for them by the Regulations. By definition, they did not act on behalf of the chief officer. The Regulations imposed public law duties. Accordingly, the only remedy was by way of judicial review, R v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police ex p Bennion (2001) EWCA Civ 638 , (2001) ACD 515 applied. Investigating and supervising officers under the Regulations did not act as agents of the chief officer for the purposes of claims made under the Acts.