Has this new legislation passed you by?
The last government in the guise of justice secretary Chris Grayling claimed it would “slay much of the ‘elf and safety’ and jobsworth culture that holds back so much of our society”.
With the press covering stories of people dying as public service individuals allegedly dithered, such as the tragic cases of Alison Hume and Jordan Lyon, the government came up with the ‘Heroism Act’ or SARAH’s Law; The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015.
So what is the big deal about this legislation, which applies when a court (in England or Wales) is considering a claim that a person was negligent or in breach of statutory duty, that causes Chris Grayling to make such wonderful claims about it?
The Act, which became law on 13th April 2015, essentially consists of just 3 sentences, yes, you read that correctly, 3 sentences!
The court must have regard to 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 court must have regard to whether the person, in carrying out the activity in the course of which the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred, demonstrated a predominantly responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others.
The court must have regard to whether 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.
Not unsurprisingly, a great many professional people think this is a complete waste of time and effort on the part of the government and it has simply added more bureaucracy to the system, something the last government claimed to be removing.
There was cross-party criticism, with Conservative MP Sir Edward Garnier calling SARAH a “silly piece of legislation”, saying it was not coherent, whilst shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said it would be treated with disdain by the courts.
Use of the phrase ‘demonstrated a predominantly responsible approach’ would appear to just add further confusion, as the Lawyers will have a field day on that one. Could an Employer be irresponsible enough to cause the injury of an Employee, but then not be found liable due to showing that they were usually, or predominately, a responsible individual?
The bottom line is that this very small piece of legislation might just encourage a few more people to become workplace First Aiders, those individuals that previously might have worried about the consequences of making a mistake, but it is very far from being the significant milestone that Chris Grayling proclaimed it to be.