Grayling: Holding out for a hero called SARAH

chris grayling 2009The new legislative programme to be unveiled in this morning’s Queen Speech is expected to include a ‘heroism bill’ to protect people from unfair negligence claims and  ‘slay’ the ‘Elf and Safety’ and ‘jobsworth’ culture. In an article for Conservative Home, Chris Grayling called the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, apparently known by ministers by the acronym SARAH, proposed a Bill to serve ‘as a signpost from Parliament to the courts’.

‘SARAH has taken a while to bring to the fore… She’s been a while in the making but, now that I am Justice Secretary, in the Department responsible for the legislation, and she is becoming a reality, I hope that she will finally slay much of the “elf and safety” and jobsworth culture that holds back so much of our society.’
Chris Grayling

The idea was ‘a very simple one’, Grayling wrote. All too often people who were ‘doing the right thing’ felt constrained by ‘the fear that they are the ones who will end up facing a lawsuit for negligence’, the justice secretary continued. ‘Take the responsible employer who puts in place proper training for staff, who has sensible safety procedures, and tries to do the right thing,’ he argued. ‘And then someone injures themselves doing something stupid or something that no reasonable person would ever have expected to be a risk. Common sense says that the law should not simply penalise the employer for what has gone wrong.’ He also cited the example of a member of our emergency services who ‘felt that they can’t come to the rescue of someone in difficulty because of the fear that they will end up in trouble for breaching health and safety rules’.

Apparently SARAH will ‘serve as a signpost from Parliament to the courts’.

‘It will set out very simple protections for those people who act in the interests of society, responsibly or heroically. It will say to the Courts that we want their decisions clearly to take into account whether people have been trying to do the right thing or not. And in particular we want the Bill to serve as a deterrent to jobsworths trying to punish people for doing so.’
Chris Grayling

Grayling promised ‘a handful of simple clauses but what we hope will be a powerful message about how we want the law to be applied’. ‘Judicial discretion will of course remain,’ he added.

The proposal went down well with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. ‘The chances of any action being taken against them are very low, but there is clearly a great concern about risk,’ said Justin Davis Smith, the NCVO’s executive director for volunteering and development HERE.

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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