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Changes likely for riot laws

It’s now almost three years since the terrible riots that spread across the country in August 2011. But the ramifications rumble on: it was back in the news last month after a series of proposed amendments to the law around the subject were announced in the Queen Speech.

The Riot (Damages) Act dates from 1886. It states that if any “building, or property within, has been damaged, stolen or destroyed by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together”, then there can be a claim for compensation made against the police authorities. It was based on the ancient belief the entire community has an obligation 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”.

But many feel this is an anachronism and there is now a move to update the Act. This was brought into sharp focus by a recent appeal court decision which ruled that the Mayor of London should meet the £75m compensation claims of Sony, which lost a warehouse to fire during the riots. It found that business interruption losses as well as those from physical damage were recoverable.

The proposals in the Queen’s Speech include a cap on the amount large businesses and insurers can recover. It also suggests creating a Riot Claims Bureau to ensure a more cohesive response in the future.

We shall keep an eye out for any updates.

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