Heroism bill passes House of Lords

The Heroism bill has survived another round of attempts by the House of Lords to have key clauses removed.

The bill, known as the Social Action, Responsible and Heroism Bill, was originally put forward by Lord Faulks, and has been the subject of extensive controversy.

Receiving particular attention was the clause in which judges “must” rather than “may” consider whether defendants are acting for the benefit of society or acting heroically when deciding on liability.

Earlier this year the bill was defended by Justice Minister Shailesh Vara, who assured MPs that the bill would not give immunity from civil liability for those causing injury through negligence.

In brief, the Heroism bill seeks to change the court’s attitude to deciding liability for lifesavers, voluntary groups and other responsible individuals acting for the benefit of another, or “for the benefit of society”.

In his response to the criticism, Vara said: “The bill will help all those hard-working individuals, organisations and small businesses who do the right thing and adopt a responsible approach towards the safety of others in the course of an activity by ensuring that that is taken into account by the court in the event of a claim.

“It will help to discourage speculative and opportunistic claims, and give confidence to responsible employers, and others, to resist them.”

Lord Faulkner has refuted claims that the bill would confuse matters in cases of injury.

He also explained that the Government was making amendments to the clauses to make it clear to which cases it refers – the act of intervening on behalf of another, rather than simply “acting heroically”.

Speaking of the changes, he said: “This will put beyond doubt that the clause applies to anybody who intervenes in an emergency to help somebody in danger, regardless of whether they acted entirely spontaneously or weighed up the risks before intervening.”

Whilst conceding that further changes may be necessary, he argued that the legislation in its current form would reassure people and give greater guidance to courts to consider the context in which an injury was suffered.

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.