Kerry Nicholls was working the evening shift in my local Ladbrokes branch in Walsgrave when two men came into the shop brandishing a gun. They forced their way behind the counter and forced her to hand over cash. Nicholls claimed compensation on the grounds that the bookmaker had not provided a safe working environment.
The case came to court in May this year, and Judge Abbas Mithani accepted the arguments of solicitor Duncan Bagshaw that the shop should have been fitted with a magnetic lock system, which the staff could control, to let people into the shop once darkness had fallen. By not doing so, they failed in their “common law duty of care.”
Now, Ladbrokes has taken the case to the London Civil Appeal Court, and been given permission to appeal the original decision. Lord Justice Murphy said, “A finding of breach of duty arising from a failure to have such a policy would affect not just this shop, but a large proportion of shops operated by this employer.”
So it would, but surely that’s a small issue compared to the risk to staff without it? Ladbrokes had argued that if the claim were upheld it could open the door to “a flood of claims” for damages from staff following other armed robberies.
Ryan Slaughter, from the Community trade union that represents betting shop staff questioned that idea. He said, “We advise all our members to exercise their legal right to compensation where a robbery has occurred and it has had a significant impact on their lives. We don’t have floods of them from those we represent but we do have them. The comment from Ladbrokes is slightly hysterical.”
Slaughter has carried out research that shows that the level of armed robberies has fallen in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that staff are now safer than they used to be. He says, “Gun enabled robbery has declined, but unfortunately anti-social behaviour with violence still persists and these incidents tend to arise out of issues pertaining to FOBT machines.”
William Hill agreed with those findings, and security director Bill South suggested that measures they had put in place had improved staff safety. He said, “In broad terms we’ve seen a year on year decrease in robbery offences and the security measures we put in place have also led to an increase in unsuccessful attempts, whether it be through the installation of security screens, introduction of safe havens for our staff or better training.”
If they can do it, why can’t Ladbrokes? Meanwhile, Kerry Nicholls is still waiting to find out if she will receive her compensation.