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Populist ‘SARAH’ Bill is a licence for have-a-go-heroes, says APIL

Government 'rhetoric' will make bad neighbours out of Good Samaritans

21 July 2014

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The proposed 'Heroism' bill championed by the government to protect 'everyday heroes' will put vulnerable people at risk, warn lawyers ahead of a parliamentary debate this week.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has argued that the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism bill, or 'SARAH' is a licence for have-a-go heroes to cause 'needless injury'.

They also warn that volunteers who work with children and elderly people will escape proper vetting, and rogue bosses may avoid their responsibilities to look after their employees.

If passed, the new legislation will provide volunteers with greater protection from claims of negligence when acting in 'the common good'. It will also protect responsible small-business owners against claims from their employees.

The law will require courts to consider the context of an incident when a claim for negligence is brought by an individual. Courts will potentially have to give weight to people who were doing a good deed; give consideration to the care taken when organising an event, even if an accident later happened anyway; and consider if the defendant was acting in an emergency.

APIL president John Spencer said: "The fact that this bill adds nothing to the current law and is therefore a waste of parliamentary time is bad enough. But the real danger is that populist government rhetoric about the bill will lead people to believe they are impervious to the law if they injure someone through their own recklessness while being 'heroic'.

"Those responsible for vetting volunteers to work with children will feel they can cut corners in the process, leaving youngsters vulnerable to predatory adults, because the law is said to protect volunteers," he continued.

"Employers will believe they can avoid the law if they injure workers, provided they are 'doing their best'. But what if their best is not good enough?

"Society needs volunteers," said Spencer. "But someone who wades in and injures another, or leaves a child vulnerable, very quickly becomes a bad neighbour rather than a Good Samaritan."

The bill is due to be debated today, Monday 21 July 2014

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Health & Safety