• In the case of R v Chief Constable of West Sussex ex p International Traders Ferry [1999] 2 AC 418, it was found that where there are various significant factors to consider, a decision as to unreasonableness will be approached incrementally by the courts.
  • Such factors can include where rights aren’t ‘absolute’, finite resources and competing rights and therefore the Chief Constable was entitled to a wide dissection on the allocation of resources.

Facts of the Case

  • D provided support to the lorries for exporting livestock across the Channel against protestors that were preventing them from executing their lawful trade.
  • D initially provided assistance for a period of five days per week but chose to restrict this to two days per week due to a lack of funding.
  • R subsequently applied for judicial review of D’s decision to restrict the assistance and put forth the argument that D had a duty to maintain lawful activities.
  • Their alternative argument involved enforcing that a reasonable Chief Constable would not have reached such a decision as a response.


  • Could it be deemed as unreasonable for D to reduce the police’s assistance of preventing the trade of livestock across the Channel?

Held by the House of Lords

  • The House of Lords dismissed the claim on the basis that D was reasonably entitled to reduce assistance based on their circumstances of funding and how this had to be apportioned to the protection of the lorries against the protestors.

Lord Slynn of Hadley

  • It was concluded that assistance for five days per week could not be deemed as feasible in the given circumstances and that it was reasonable for assistance to be subsequently reduced in light of the police’s funding.
  • “The police authority estimated that it would have cost at least £89,430 per week to finance a further three days’ policing using officers supplied under the mutual aid scheme. Extrapolated over a full year the latter figure would be £4.65m. It assumes (perhaps improbably) that the size of the protests would not have declined.” [454]
  • Lord Slynn of Hadley went on further to say that the police assistance of two days per week was both “a reasonable and proportionate response when weighed with his other responsibilities.”  [454]

Editor’s Notes

  • The decision, in this case, is significant in that it demonstrates that perfect behaviour is not necessarily demanded when considering the case of rationality. The courts are more inclined to consider the various factors that are present and pay regard to the weight of such factors to decide the extent of what can realistically be reasonably expected, as opposed to requiring going beyond this.