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The case for Strict Liability
 

The case for Strict Liability

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Presentation by Brenda Mitchell, Founder and Partner of Cycle Law Scotland to the Cross Party Group for Cycling

Presentation by Brenda Mitchell, Founder and Partner of Cycle Law Scotland to the Cross Party Group for Cycling

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    The case for Strict Liability The case for Strict Liability Document Transcript

    • Brenda  Mitchell  is  the  founder  and  lead  solicitor  at  Cycle  Law  Scotland.    She  is  a  lawyer,  driver,  motorcyclist  and  cyclist  and  has  exposure  over  a  25  year  period  to  road  traffic  collisions  their  causes  and  the  pain  and  suffering  that  arises.    Cycle  Law  Scotland  believe  it  is  part  of  their  responsibility  to  seek  improvement  in  the  civil  law  as  it  applies  to  a  hierarchy  of  road  use  and  to  push  forward  with  a  campaign  to  introduce  the  concept  of  strict  liability,  in  a  form  to  be  agreed,  with  the  ulDmate  aim  of  encouraging  more  individuals  to  take  up  cycling  and  for  the  roads  to  be  safer  for  all  road  users.        1  
    • There  is  confusion  over  the  terminology  “strict  liability”.    Road  users  need  to  know  specifically  what  it  means  and  how  it  will  affect  them  as  a  road  user.          HISTORY  LESSON      One  of  the  remarkable  achievements  of  Roman  Jurisprudence  was  the  introducDon  and  development  of  a  noDon  of  fault  or  culpability.  They  also  more  importantly  made  an  enDre  branch  of  their  schemes  and  obligaDons  in  order  to  accommodate  instances  of  no  fault  liability  –  where  a  person  was  held  liable  not  for  his  failure  to  display  the  diligence  of  a  reasonable  man,  but  because  he  was  in  control  of  a  potenDal  source  of  danger  to  other  people’s  lives,  health  and  property.          There  has  been  a  general  acceptance  of  the  concept  of  strict  liability  in  Scots  Law  over  history.    Examples  that  we  are  more  familiar  with  include:      Workplace  Regula.ons-­‐  RegulaDons  that  came  into  force  on  1st  January  1993  introduced  a  raX  of  obligaDons  on  Employers  including  strict  liability  for  certain  breaches.  From  introducDon  in  a  10  year  period  there  was  a  30%  fall  in  work  place  accidents.    Strict  liability  also  exists  in  consumer  protecDon  laws  and  control  of  animals  regulaDons.      2  
    • Most  countries  in  the  world  have  a  strict  liability  system  in  civil  law  as  it  applies  to  road  use.    What  underpins  the  system  is  the  noDon  of  vulnerability  and  its  applicaDon  to  road  and  vehicle  use.    Road  Peace  provided  interesDng  confirmaDon  that  China  has  had  a  strict  liability  regime  in  place  for  the  past  10  years  and  the  strict  liability  rules  in  relaDon  to  road  hierarchy  can  be  found  in  Asia,  India,  Bangladesh  and  even  Vietnam.          The  quesDon  to  pose  is,  why  is  the  concept  of  Strict  Liability  acceptable  in  most  European  countries  and  others  around  the  world  and  yet  in  Scotland  we  struggle  with  the  concept  of  hierarchy  of  road  use  whereby  motor  vehicles  have  responsibility  to  cyclists  and  pedestrians  and  cyclists  in  turn  have  a  responsibility  to  pedestrians?  3  
    • Caps  (2010)  laid  down  ambiDous  targets  including  a  desire  to  see  10%  of  all  journeys  undertaken  in  Scotland  by  2020  by  bicycle.          ACTION  POINT  12      To  undertake  a  legislaDve  search  to  reveal  the  operaDon  of  liability  laws  and  how  they  work  in  other  countries      ACTION  POINT  13        To  try  and  idenDfy  what  kind  of  hierarchy  might  be  established      It  seems  that  liele  has  been  done  in  the  past  3  years  although  it  is  hoped  that  following  the  CAPS  refresh  we  will  see  the  result  of  any  research  undertaken  in  relaDon  to  acDon  point  12.    I  believe  it  may  well  be  confirmed  that  a  change  in  the  civil  law  is  not  a  reserved  issue.    It  is  worth  noDng  that  although  liele  progress  has  been  made  in  relaDon  to  acDon  point  12  and  13,  the  single  and  most  factor  keeping  Scots  from  cycling  is  the  fear  and  the  fear  is  that  the  roads  are  unsafe.          We  must  consider  whether  that  is  a  valid  well-­‐founded  fear.          4  
    • There  is  no  doubt  that  public  opinion  is  divided.    Many  will  ask  what  is  wrong  with  a  fault  based  system.    Many  would  shout  that  it  is  not  fair  that  we  all  share  the  road  therefore  we  should  all  be  subjected  to  the  same  rules.          There  are  views  that  cyclists  are  lawless  free  riders  in  the  high  constrained  and  highly  taxed  world  of  the  motorists.    Many  motorists  believe  that  cyclists  don’t  pay  road  tax  but  in  truth  road  tax  was  abolished  in  1937.    Many  argue  that  cyclist  don’t  pay  insurance.    Many  cyclists  however  do  have  insurance  through  membership  bodies  such  as  CTC  and  BriDsh  Cycling.    Others  are  covered  under  their  household  contents  insurance  policy  for  public  liability.    It  should  be  noted  that  the  insurance  premiums  paid  by  cyclists  is  generally  between  £20-­‐40  per  annum  because  they  are  deemed  to  be  low  risk.    If  all  cyclists  were  to  be  insured  on  a  compulsory  basis  it  makes  you  wonder  where  all  the  premium  income  would  go  and  whether  insurance  companies  would  lower  premiums  for  motorists  who  take  to  cycling.          The  UK  Department  of  Transport  paper  published  in  2010  (the  same  year  as  CAPS)  painted  a  rather  bleak  picture.    Evidence  suggests  there  is  a  failure  in  culture  of  road  sharing  and  the  lack  of  consensus  of  whether  and  how  cyclists  should  be  on  the  road.    Motoring  journalists  and  the  motoring  industry  have  argued  that  it  is  a  level  playing  field,  that  we  are  all  equal,  that  we  are  all  road  users  and  we  should  all  be  bound  by  the  same  liability  laws.    Are  we  seriously  going  to  accept  that  it  is  a  level  playing  field?      5  
    • Strict  Liability  is  an  emoDve  issue.    However,  we  must  conDnue  to  push  ahead  with  the  noDon  of  the  introducDon  of  strict  liability  into  the  civil  law  in  Scotland.    One  MSP  recently  noted  that  the  laws  around  strict  liability  should  be  looked  at  as  we  work  to  make  Scotland  a  cycle  friendly  naDon.    If  it  can  be  shown  to  help  improve  road  safety,  Scotland  should  not  be  afraid  to  take  the  lead.    Another  observer  and  broadcaster,  Lesley  Riddoch,  confirmed  that  Europe  had  massively  increased  cycle  use  by  building  cycle  paths  and  separaDng  road  users.    There  is  a  culture  of  treaDng  cyclists  with  kid  gloves.    Liability  laws  have  contributed  to  that  culture  and  have  altered  driver  behaviour  so  profoundly.    Just  like  seatbelts,  we  will  look  back  and  wonder  why  we  accepted  the  current  situaDon  in  the  years  to  come.        6  
    • What  can  we  achieve?    In  many  ways  what  has  been  achieved  already  is  posiDve.    We  have  removed  the  issue  of  strict  liability  from  the  back  burner  and  brought  it  to  the  fore.    LegislaDon  is  the  way  forward  and  we  believe  is  it  competent  for  a  members  bill  to  be  introduced.    We  need  to  decide  on  the  frame  work.    How  strict  is  strict  for  example.    France  adopts  a  very  strict  policy  of  strict  liability.    The  Netherlands  have  a  form  of  50/50  and  in  the  UK  we  seem  to  be  soXening  up  to  the  idea  of  presumed  liability.    UlDmately  it  is  low  cost  and  easily  achievable.        7