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Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill (England and Wales)

21st July 2014

If someone intervenes in an emergency situation in a negligent or reckless manner that leads to damage (either to people or property) he or she may be sued. This Bill aims to introduce new legal defences for those who are sued for intervening in emergency situations or acting to protect the safety of others. The idea behind this is that people shouldn’t be punished for being ‘Good Samaritans’ or we’ll all be afraid to act to help others in difficulty.

If the Bill becomes law, it will mean that Courts will have to consider the “wider context” of someone’s actions, including whether they behaved responsibly, took “heroic action” or acted “for the benefit of society”. However, it will still be up to the Courts to decide if someone has been negligent based on the facts of the case before them.

The suggested Bill has met with a mixed response. Many (particularly lawyers) believe that there is already enough protection in the law for ‘have-a-go heroes’ and that it is dangerous to provide more, for fear that people will be encouraged to perform foolish and negligent acts thinking they are being ‘heroes’.

The alternative view is that acts of heroism are to be encouraged and that as the Courts will still have the ultimate say on whether or not someone has been negligent while intervening in an emergency, there will still be sufficient legal safeguards in place for any inadvertent victims of ‘have-a-go heroes’.

On balance we suspect that this Bill will, in practice, change very little about how ‘have-a-go hero’ cases are viewed by the Courts. The trick will be making sure that the public understand that all the good intentions in the world will not stop them getting into legal trouble if they behave without proper thought and consideration for the consequences, however heroic their actions seemed to them at the time.

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