The family of shot Pc David Rathband hit out at the “arrogance and insensitivity” of his former employer after losing a High Court negligence case and being ordered to pay at least £100,000 costs.
Mr Justice Males found that Northumbria Police was not negligent in failing to pass on a warning that gunman Raoul Moat had called 999 and threatened he was “hunting for officers”.
Less than nine minutes later Pc Rathband was alone and defenceless on a roundabout above the A1 in Newcastle when Moat blasted him twice in the face.
The judge said he was “desperately unlucky to be the victim of Moat’s cruelty and hatred” and he was surprised he survived the attack in July 2010.
But he ruled Superintendent Jo Farrell, in charge of the manhunt for the murderer that night, was not negligent by not immediately warning officers of the threat. And even if she had ordered it to be sent out, it might have been too late for Pc Rathband to act upon.
Mr Justice Males said it was “well established law” that the police did not owe the public or officers a “private law duty of care” when making operational decisions, “particularly when such decisions have to be made under pressure of crime”.
Although this led to hardship in individual cases, it has been held to be in the public interest, he said.
Issuing such a warning could have adversely affected officers’ ability to protect the public throughout the force area on a busy night, the judge said.
He ordered the claimantsto pay the force’s costs with an interim payment of £100,000 due in 21 days.
The cost of the eight-day trial, which involved QC barristers on both sides, plus hundreds of hours of legal preparation, was not revealed.
After the judgment was handed down at Newcastle’s Moot Hall, Pc Rathband’s sister Debbie Essery and his twin Darren hit out at the force.
Their statement said they were “disappointed although not surprised” by the judgment.
They said: “Mistakes were made, policies and procedures have been changed, that fact remains.
“The arrogance and insensitivity of Northumbria Police throughout has been cruel to say the least.
“The public perception appears to be that police officers are looked after by their own force, this was definitely not the case for David, he was left alone on July 4 and thereafter not only by the force he was so proud to serve but by others whom he loved too.”
Northumbria Police Chief Constable Steve Ashman said the judgment “emphatically” showed that Pc Rathband, who killed himself almost four years ago, was not let down.
He said: “This has been a sad and difficult case for all concerned.
“It was a tragic incident which occurred five-and-a-half years ago and our thoughts have always been with David and his immediate family.”
He added: “Moat’s actions created an unprecedented situation for Northumbria Police but the judge has recognised that operational officers have to make high pressure, complex decisions in tight timescales and in doing so they must focus not only on officer safety but on the safety and welfare of the public.”