Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH) Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law

Chris Grayling’s ridiculous SARAH bill has now become law after it received Royal Assent last week.

The legislation compels judges to consider certain factors when determining the applicable standard of care in a negligence claim. The aim of the proposed legislation is to alleviate people’s fears of incurring liability when participating in socially useful activities.

Whilst a commendable intention, the legislation has faced significant criticism not merely on the grounds that the problem it has been introduced to solve simply does not exist (rendering the bill pointless) but also for its potential breach of the Armed Forces Covenant. We were concerned that the legislation would be exploited by employers and organisations, particularly the Ministry of Defence, to escape liability for both its own negligence and vicariously for the negligence of its employees.

Hilary Meredith Solicitors Ltd campaigned in the House of Lords and House of Commons about these concerns. As a result the commendable Lord Beecham raised these concerns with Lord Faulks and invited Lord Faulks to confirm whether the Ministry of Defence would be able to use the provisions of the Bill to avoid paying compensation to members of the Armed Forces.

Lord Faulks reassured Lord Beecham that there was nothing in this legislation to prevent a claim being brought by a member of the Armed Forces against the Ministry of Defence and stated that there is no need for anxiety as vicarious liability is not intended to nor will be altered in any way by the legislation.

We therefore have it on parliamentary record that the Ministry of Defence cannot escape liability under the legislation and Hansard can be read as the correct interpretation of the law if this issue is raised by the Ministry of Defence.

Whilst we continue to agree with Lord Pannick, that the legislation remains “the most ridiculous piece of legislation approved by parliament in a very long time; [it is] a text that would barely muster a pass mark in GCSE legal studies,” we are pleased to have protected claims made by Armed Forces personnel against the Ministry of Defence against its potential damaging impact.

Hannah Ashcroft