Harvey v Plymouth City Council [2010] EWCA Civ 860

Mr Harvey, aged 21, had spent the evening drinking. He took a taxi but, when running away from it to avoid paying his fare, he fell down a sheer drop on the council’s land. He was seriously injured and sued the council, arguing that it had been reasonably foreseeable that youths might fool around on that area of land, possibly whilst under the influence of alcohol, and that the council therefore had a duty to take reasonable care for his safety under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.  

The Court of Appeal found for the council. The duty under the 1957 Act was to make premises reasonably safe for use for the purposes for which the visitor was permitted by the occupier to be there. When a local authority allowed the public to use its land for recreational purposes, it was consenting to normal recreational activities, carrying normal risks. An implied licence for general recreational activity could not be stretched to cover any form of activity, however reckless. The council’s implied licence had not extended to what Mr Harvey had been doing on its land. He was accordingly not a “visitor” for the purposes of the 1957 Act and it therefore did not apply.