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Injured Thief Fails in Damages Claim Against Accomplice

In a ruling which re-asserts the maxim that no one should be compensated for the consequences of their own criminal act, a thief who sued his accomplice after he was catastrophically injured in a fall from the back of their getaway vehicle has had his compensation hopes dashed by the Court of Appeal.

White vanDavid Joyce suffered severe head injuries when he tumbled from a precarious perch hanging off the back of a van as he and his uncle and partner in crime sped away after stealing a set of ladders from a front garden. His uncle subsequently pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and Mr Joyce’s lawyers sought very substantial damages from him and his motor insurers.

Mr Joyce’s claim was rejected at first instance. However, his legal team argued on appeal that he could not have reasonably foreseen the danger that lay ahead when he embarked on the criminal enterprise. It was submitted that it was disproportionate and wrong to make him pay such a heavy price for his involvement in a relatively minor criminal offence.

However, in dismissing his appeal, the court emphasised that Mr Joyce’s crime was punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment and was not an offence that could be committed ‘without any moral culpability’. His injuries had arisen from his voluntary involvement in a joint criminal enterprise and there were powerful public policy reasons why he should go un-compensated. By his actions, he had also given ‘implicit encouragement’ to his uncle’s dangerous driving.