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Clause 3 — Responsibility

Part of Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 20th October 2014.

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Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 4:00 pm, 20th October 2014

I do not know the outcome, but the fact that those people took legal action in the first place is the issue. People should not feel that they can try something on. My hon. and learned Friend is a distinguished lawyer and will probably know what the outcome would be. Perhaps he would like to enlighten the House in that regard.

The issue was not what the outcome was, but that the Cheshire fire and rescue service was taken to court in the first place. To those who may still have concerns about the possible effects of the clause, I would emphasise that the provisions do not direct the courts to the conclusion they should reach and will not prevent a finding of negligence or breach of statutory duty where that is warranted. I am confident that the courts will continue to take a common-sense approach to these cases, and will exercise the flexibility that the clause gives them, so that in each case they reach a just decision, in light of all the circumstances.

On points of detail, amendment 2 asks courts to consider whether the defendant was responsible, rather than generally responsible, during an activity, and amendment 4 ask courts to focus on the defendant’s approach to safety

“leading up to the alleged negligence”,

as opposed, for example, to their track record on health and safety matters over a longer period. As I explained when the hon. Member for Hammersmith tabled the amendments in Committee, they are unnecessary. Clause 3 already states that the courts should look at whether the defendant adopted

“a generally responsible approach towards…the safety…of others” during the activity in which the alleged negligence occurred. That makes it perfectly clear that the Bill is concerned with the approach that the defendant adopted in the course of the events that led to the injury, and not with their actions in other unrelated circumstances, or their health and safety record over a number of years. During the activity in which the incident took place, if the person’s actions were risky or careless, and that caused injury, there is nothing in clause 3 to stop them being found negligent.