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Courts to Recognise Good Intentions

The UK Government’s Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill has recently received Royal Assent and has now become law.

The legislation, which only applies in England and Wales, gives legal reassurance to volunteers, community groups and 'good deed doers' that courts will take account of the fact they have been acting to help society if something goes wrong and they end up having to defend themselves against being sued.

According to the Government, the changes have been designed to help volunteers, community groups, businesses and people who step in heroically to help in dangerous circumstances.

The act has been welcomed by groups, including St John Ambulance and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, who have said they believe it will help to reduce the barriers which affect people’s willingness to participate in worthwhile activities and step forward to help.

The new law means that judges must consider three additional factors when assessing liability in a negligence claim:

  • If the person being sued was doing something for ‘the benefit of society’ – to take account of the fact people were doing a good deed like volunteering, running an event or trip, or helping out by clearing snow.
  • If they had been acting in a ‘predominantly responsible way’ – to make sure the court will give consideration to the fact that people may have taken care when organising an activity but, in spite of their best efforts, an accident has happened.
  • If they were ‘intervening in an emergency’ – if they stepped in to help someone in danger but something went wrong.

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