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SARAH Bill ‘nurtures myths and misconceptions’

Legislation is no way to alter the perceptions, says APIL

15 December 2014

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The government is wasting parliamentary time on the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill, say lawyers, as the proposed legislation reaches the report stage of the House of Lords.

"This SARAH Bill promises a solution to a problem which does not exist," said John Spencer, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

"The government is pushing this legislation forward when it doesn't seem to have been thought through".

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, argues that the Bill will protect heroes and volunteers from being sued for injuries sustained in the process of helping others. However, opponents of the legalisation say that the law already takes 'good intentions' into account.

"If people don't step in to help others in need because they think wrongly that they might be sued for any injuries, then they are wrong and need to be corrected," explained Spencer. "Any injury claim can only arise from proven negligence, which is not the same thing as trying and failing to help someone."

John Spencer continued: "A Bill is not the way to alter perceptions. By bowing to myths and misunderstandings, there is a real danger that the Bill could lead people to believe they are impervious to the law if they injure someone through their own recklessness while being 'heroic'.

"So while being a waste of time is bad enough, this move by the government actually encourages have-a-go heroes to play Superman while the injured victims suffer the consequences."

The Lord Chancellor has previously railed against a 'compensation culture' claiming his Bill would tackle "a culture of ambulance-chasing that all too often is about generating opportunities to earn fees, rather than doing the right thing".

Grayling's contention was made as MPs debated the provisions of the Bill during its second reading in the House of Commons in July. At the time Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan quoted Lord Young of Graffham's whose report, 'Common Sense Common Safety' from 2010, concluded: "The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is, however, one of perception rather than reality."

 

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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