The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has criticised “Government hype” about its Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill to protect "everyday heroes" arguing that, if approved, the Bill will put vulnerable people at risk. The Bill is due its second reading in the House of Commons today, 22 July 2014.

The Bill provides that, to determine whether claims for negligence and breach of statutory duty should succeed, the court must take into account whether:

  • the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members
  • the person, in carrying out the activity in the course of which the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred, demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others
  • the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual in danger and without regard to the person's own safety or other interests.

APIL has said that the Bill is “a licence for have-a-go heroes to cause needless injury, for volunteers who work with children and elderly people to escape proper vetting, and for rogue bosses to dodge their responsibilities to look after their employees”. APIL president, John Spencer, argued that the Bill adds nothing to the current law: “... the real danger is that populist government rhetoric about the Bill will lead people to believe they are impervious to the law if they injure someone through their own recklessness while being ‘heroic’….Those responsible for vetting volunteers to work with children will feel they can cut corners in the process, leaving youngsters vulnerable to predatory adults, because the law is said to protect volunteers….Employers will believe they can avoid the law if they injure workers, provided they are ‘doing their best’. But what if their best is not good enough?”