Are you one of Britain’s unsung heroes?
Do you go around pushing children into ponds, before jumping in to save them, on the off chance you might get invited to an awards ceremony where you can perv at Carol Vorderman in a low cut dress?
If you are then it’s good news. You will soon be able to rest easy, with your underpants outside your trousers, safe in the knowledge that you are protected by the grandly titled “Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015” or “SARAH” as it’s been dubbed.
Naming statutes after girls is definitely the way forward. LASPO is an awful name, it sounds like a court order imposed on unruly lesbians. It should have been called LAURA ( Legal Aid’s Utter Rubbish Act) – much snappier and user friendly. SARAH gets extra brownie points for calling to mind one of Dr Who’s prettier assistants, although slapped wrists for reminding me of the ugly one in Bananarama.
SARAH means that those who may otherwise have been a defendant in a claim for personal injury are now potentially safe from liability, if they can persuade a court that they were:
1. acting for the benefit of society, and/or
2. demonstrating a predominantly responsible approach towards protecting the safety or interest of others, and/or
3. acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual.
I’m not sure who drafted the Act but if it’s the same person who drafted your will then I’d get it checked. You can drive a coach and horses through it, in fact Stevie Wonder could drive a coach and horses through it. It’s unnecessary, poorly thought through and badly executed. SARAH is the modern MOJ personified.
What’s the matter with SARAH ? Well, where to start?
Predominantly. What does that mean in practice? If an employer can show that they are responsible most of the time but on one occasion they cause an employee to suffer a serious injury by failing to implement basic health and safety measures are they afforded a defence ?
What does “acting heriocally” mean ? How will that be defined ? It would probably cover a brave passer by who unties a damsel in distress from a railway line only to be sued by the ungrateful minx when she bruises a rib in the process, but what about emergency medical treatment carried out negligently and without consent ?
My biggest criticism of SARAH is that it is pointless and very likely to be ignored by the courts. The genuine concern that well meaning, heroic activity should not be discouraged by the threat of litigation can already be dealt with by established principles of duty of care, breach of duty and causation. I predict that not one claim will be decided using the Act, it will be a complete irrelevance. Poor SARAH is destined to be the buck-toothed girl at the school disco, shunned and unloved.
In a sensible world the parliamentary time wasted on SARAH should have been spent on useful legislation, such as laws to improve access to justice regardless of means or introducing compulsory public floggings for merchant bankers.
I hope and expect that the Act will not undermine the fundamental importance of risk assessment and the central role that plays in determining the liability of defendants in personal injury claims but we’ll see how things pan out on 1st October 2015 when SARAH comes into force. Not long to wait all you superheroes out there, just enough time to get your capes washed and ironed.
Bob Dylan’s first wife shares a name with this unfortunate piece of legislation. “So easy to look at, so hard to define” sang Dylan about his missus, shortly before binning her and then filing for divorce. So Bob, not so easy to look at it seems and pretty easy to define – dumped. I’m sure old misery guts wouldn’t have much trouble defining this SARAH either – a total waste of time. The Times Maybe a Changing but somethings stay the same – misguided governments passing pointless laws.