Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill
Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill: rhetoric or change?
The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, nicknamed the Sarah Bill, was announced in the Queen’s speech earlier this year. It intends to provide further protection to employers and volunteers by requiring courts to look at the social action, responsibility and heroism of acts when assessing standard of care in negligence claims.
For legislation, it is comparatively brief, with 5 sections and running to one and a half pages. Its brevity, and content, however has been questioned in a letter to Chris Grayling, justice secretary, from the Parliament’s joint committee on human rights (JCHR), which queried whether it was intended to change negligence law or to counter public misconceptions about it. In response, Grayling stated that;
“The bill will not change this overarching legal framework, but it will direct the courts to consider particular factors when considering whether the defendant took reasonable care.”
During the debate on this bill, it has also transpired that the insurance industry has donated £5-£6 million to the Conservative party. Indeed, in the government’s statutory impact assessment which is required for all bills, it was noted that;
“Insurers and other defendants may gain from slightly reduced aggregate compensation paid and this may feed through to lower insurance premiums.”
In contrast, as Andrew Slaughter told the Guardian (Friday 12th September 2014),
“Access to justice is under threat and our prisons are in crisis but this is what the Conservatives waste our time on. The committee stage of the bill has shown how little support there is for these measures which Chris Grayling himself admits will not change the law in any way.”
Whether the bill proceeds unchanged remains to be seen. It does, however, reveal the interplay between law, politics and the public, which are increasingly becoming blurred.