Following its formal introduction into Parliament, the Social Action, Responsibility, and Heroism Bill has now been published, and can be viewed here.
The Bill, which has become known as the SARAH Bill or the Heroes Bill, proposes to give direction to the courts that they should take into account if a defendant to a personal injury claim was acting “heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others”, if sued for negligence or breach of statutory duty.
The Bill is intended to encourage and enable people to participate in volunteering activities and play a more active role in society, according to a new fact sheet on the Bill published by the Ministry of Justice. The fact sheet also details the current law and how it is claimed the Bill will make a difference.
The fact sheet details:
- why the Government considers the legislation is necessary
- how negligence claims are considered under current law
- how the Bill will affect the way courts consider claims
The need for legislation
The Government claims the Bill will provide reassurance to people acting for the benefit of society or intervening to help someone in an emergency that the courts will take the wider context of their actions into account. This supports the Government’s broader aim of encouraging and enabling people to volunteer and play a more active role in society.
At present, if someone causes loss of injury to another person during an activity it may be open to the other person to sue them for damages for negligence or breach of statutory duty. The standard of care applicable in breach of statutory duty cases depends upon the statutory duty in question. However, in negligence cases the court will consider whether the defendant acted reasonably in all the circumstances. The court will consider:
- the size of the risk
- the gravity of the consequences
- the cost and practicability of avoiding the risk
- whether the defendant was acting in an emergency – the need to act without the time for reflection
The Bill’s provisions
The Government acknowledges that the proposed legislation will not change the overarching legal framework, but rather will direct the courts to consider particular factors when deciding whether the defendant took reasonable care. This will include whether:
- the alleged negligence/breach took place when acting for the benefit of society
- whether the defendant had demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety of others
- whether the act occurred when the defendant was acting heroically in an emergency
In our recent article we looked at whether there really is a need for a ‘Heroes Bill’. A date is yet to be announced for Parliamentary debate to take place and it remains to be seen whether it is passed or dismissed as a misguided attempt to perpetuate ‘compensation culture’ which the Government itself has shown to be a myth.