UK Politics

Queen's Speech: Good deeds 'to be backed by law'

Street party celebrating Royal Wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William
Image caption Ministers said street parties had been cancelled because of the cost of public liability insurance

Extra legal protection is to be given to people carrying out good deeds, volunteering or planning local events who end up being involved in liability claims, the government has announced.

Those thinking of doing something to help others should not be put off by the risk of being sued, ministers said.

Under the new law for England and Wales, judges will be urged to show leniency in cases that get to court.

The measure is expected to be included in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.

'Generally responsible'

The Ministry of Justice says people are often deterred from doing things to benefit others because they worry about negligence.

Health and safety concerns had been used to remove "dustpans and brushes from street pastors clearing up glass and offering support to town centre revellers", the MoJ said.

It also claimed street parties and picnics had been cancelled because of demands for "up to £5m" of public liability insurance.

Of the many people who do volunteer, research suggests that nearly half of them, 47%, are concerned about the risk of liability, it added.

It wants to force judges to give weight to three factors in cases where people do end up facing litigation:

  • If the person was doing something "for the benefit of society", such as clearing snow
  • If they were acting in a "generally responsible way"
  • If they stepped in to help in an emergency

The MoJ said the new bill would also "put the law more clearly on the side of employers" when something goes wrong at work through no fault of their own.

The law change would protect small business owners who take a "responsible approach to safety training and procedures" from the challenges of "irresponsible employees", it said.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there."

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