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August riots invoke ancient law

The riots which broke out across the country last August have led to hundreds of insurance claims. But this has brought into focus an ancient Act which stipulates that liability for covering the cost of damages caused by rioters lies with the police.

The Riot (Damages) Act of 1886 states that if any “building, or property within, has been damaged, stolen or destroyed by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together”, then claims for damage can be made against the police authorities. It was based on the ancient belief that it is the entire community’s duty to prevent riots and, if a riot does take place, then the police authority is liable for the damage “as it is presumed to have resulted from defective policing”.

According to a recent article in Post magazine, this outdated statute is causing significant problems for many claimants. The Act dates from a time when life was very different and there is uncertainty over the validity of many claims. For example, a robbery which took place while the police were dealing with a nearby riot is probably not covered. Damage caused by fewer than 12 people may also not be covered. Even more controversial is whether consequential loss of profits arising from damage to a business is covered by the Act.

In short, it’s a minefield, and it’s not expected that all claims will be finalised in the near future. If you are experiencing difficulty with a claim resulting from the August riots, then contact Morgan Clark: our team of experienced commercial loss assessors will be able to help you navigate this incredibly complicated procedure.

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