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Could a new Civil Law bill make us nicer people?

New legislation published by Alan Shatter will give legal protection to citizens acting as ‘Good Samaritans’.

Image: btaroli via Flickr

A NEW BILL published by justice minister Alan Shatter today could help to make Irish citizens more charitable people.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 updates 15 previous laws which have become outdated over the years – and includes a safeguard of the legal rights of so-called ‘Good Samaritans’.

Good Samaritan laws give legal protection to people who assist an injured bystander – aiming to encourage more charitable behaviour in those who come across accident scenes and so on.

Currently, however, Ireland has no such laws – meaning that a person who tries to assist someone else in peril, whether a crime victim or involved in an accident, may be legally liable for that person’s injuries.

The Department of Justice explained that the law would “provide protection from liability for persons… who act in good faith, without expectation of payment or reward, and in a way that does not constitute gross negligence, to provide assistance, advice or care during an accident or emergency.”

The enshrining of a new Good Samaritan law comes on the back of a 2009 report from the Law Reform Commission, which found major shortcomings in Ireland’s legal protection for well-meaning citizens.

The Irish courts have previously established that there are some ‘special relationships’ in which a someone has a legal duty to intervene and rescue.

Examples of these relationships include those between a parent and child, an employer and an employee, a hotelier and a resident, or a transport carrier and their passenger.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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