Football coach Bob Higgins has been found guilty of criminal abuse, but are his employers, Southampton FC also liable to his victims in a civil claim?

The former youth football coach was found guilty of 45 counts of indecent assault recently and his conviction will allow a Football Association review into child sex abuse allegations to establish what the clubs and the FA knew about Higgins.

This is significant because the law makes Employers vicariously liable for various acts of their employees. There are good reasons for this; not least that it serves the interests of our society to provide a victim with a claim against a party with financial resources.

It does not matter that the employer itself has done no wrong; that is the nature of vicarious liability. However, it is important that the acts of the employee, for which the employer is being held responsible, were carried out “in the course of employment.” Otherwise, vicarious liability will not apply.>

In a previous case, a former employee unlawfully published online personal information of almost 100,000 employees of Morrisons. Of these, over 5,500 employees made claims against Morrisons claiming breaches of the Data Protection Act and of common law duties.

The court decided that there was a sufficient connection between the role that the employee had with Morrisons and his wrongful acts. The employee had been employed in a senior IT position and, as part of his role; he was entrusted with large amounts of personal data. The fact that Morrisons could not have foreseen that the employee would commit a criminal act with this data and that it had not broken any data protection principles, did not absolve Morrisons from vicarious liability for the employee’s acts.

In another case, a company was found liable for the Managing Director’s assault of an employee at a spontaneous after-party following the company’s Christmas event; but more recently an employee injured by a contractor at a Christmas party failed to make the contractor’s employer vicariously liable for her injuries. Such cases will always depend on their own facts.

How should you as employers deal with this risk of being vicariously liable for the criminal acts of your employees? Please call our employment specialist, Justin Sadler, to discuss any issues or arrange a fixed fee meeting for one hour for £95.

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