Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, comments on what the Heroism Bill means to those who need it most
As part of this year’s Queen’s Speech, the government officially launched its latest populist pet-project, the so-called ‘Heroism Bill’. This is the government’s most recent sortie in its long-running assault on the laws that keep workers safe and hold negligent employers to account.
Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling MP, claims the bill will mean that, when considering negligence and breach of duty cases, courts will have to consider the wider context of defendants' actions, including whether they behaved responsibly and "for the benefit of society" or took "heroic action" to help people in danger with no regard to their own safety.
Courts already make common sense decisions
No one can justify people, who go above and beyond their duty to put themselves in danger in the cause of helping another being held liable for injury if they 'did the right thing' as best they could in difficult circumstances. And no court would do so.
Courts already behave sensibly on those occasions where this does occur, by throwing out lawsuits on the grounds of “common sense”.
Populist headline grabbing
The government says it respects the independence of the judiciary and yet here it is trying to dictate to it. This is headline grabbing with no real thought and will produce no real change. Everything the government says the Bill will do is already the law. The government is looking for right wing media plaudits for fighting dragons that exist only in their collective imagination.
It says a lot about the arrogance of this government when it doesn't even trust a judiciary, respected the world over, to get it right.
Where is the evidence that this is needed? Where are the cases brought to court - not instances where insurers have wrongly chosen to pay out rather than fight - where damages are awarded?
Hyped up fears
If this government really wanted to deal with this issue they would actually tackle the insurers who pay out rather than fight but, quite simply, they can't. To do so would undermine the mantra of fear which helps to keep the perception of a compensation culture, used by the government’s friends and funders in the insurance industry to justify increased premiums and increased profits, alive.
Fixating on fears hyped up by the insurance industry who have so much to gain from creating a sense of crisis also offers the bonus of a welcome distraction from savage cuts to Legal Aid and unheard of limitations on access to justice.