Government reforms receive Royal Assent but implementation timetable kept under wraps

Grayling: Act restores balance

Grayling: Act restores balance

The Criminal Justice & Courts Bill and the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill both received Royal Assent yesterday, although the Ministry of Justice would not give a timetable on when they will actually be implemented.

The former will introduce the controversial changes to judicial review, as well as the ban on law firms from offering inducements to potential clients and the new rule that will require courts to throw out personal injury cases entirely where the claimant has been found to be fundamentally dishonest, unless doing so would cause substantial injustice.

There remains great uncertainty as to what type of conduct will trigger the latter provision.

Under SARAH, 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.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “Not only have responsible small businesses been stifled by unnecessary insurance costs and the fear of being sued but volunteers have been deterred from taking part in socially beneficial activities and brave people have been put off from helping someone in trouble.

“This much needed change to the law will encourage responsible employers to stand up to speculative and opportunistic claims, and will help reassure good deed doers who come to the aid of those in difficulty.

“This Act restores a balance to counter the health and safety culture, and provides valuable reassurance to people that courts will take full account of the context of their actions if someone is sued after acting in a socially beneficial way.”

The MoJ declined to provide an implementation timetable for either Act.

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