Uninsured riot victims aided by 125-year old Act, says law firm

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As businesses and householders pick up the pieces after the recent riots in cities and towns around the country, a rarely used and commonly misunderstood law that allows people to gain compensation when they were not insured, or their cover is insufficient, has come to the fore. 

Commentators are suggesting that The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 will soon be repealed to reflect the current economic climate but, in the meantime, property experts at law firm Boodle Hatfield are recommending people take prompt legal advice to see whether the Act applies in their circumstances.

Under the Act, compensation is payable to a person or company who has suffered loss due to rioting, where their house, shop or building has been damaged or destroyed or property in it has been damaged, destroyed or stolen.

Robert Marchbank, solicitor at Boodle Hatfield, said: “Contrary to what has been published in some parts of the press, the police do not need to declare there has been a riot. Instead, there must have been at least 12 people involved, they must have a common purpose and there must be proof of an intent those involved in the riot were assisting each other.  

“For a claim to be successful, it must also be proved alarm has been caused to ‘at least one person of reasonable firmness and courage’ and given the video footage from the incidents over the last four days, this requirement would certainly be satisfied.”

To make a claim the individual or company must apply to the police compensation authority of the police area in which their property is located. Claims could be dealt with differently by police authorities around the country and must be made within 14 days of the damage, although the police compensation authority can agree for this to be extended to 42 days.

Marchbank said: “We recommend claimants seek legal advice now so they can obtain detailed advice and submit a claim in time.” 

Claims must state the time and date of the riotous behaviour, address of the property and the claimant’s interest in the property and the events that occurred leading to the damage.  

“As much detail as possible should also be given to show the behaviour of those involved was riotous,” said Marchbank.

Separate amounts should be claimed for destruction of premises, damage to the premises, damage to property at the premises and destruction of property or theft from the premises. 

Marchbank said: “The relevant police compensation authority determines the level of compensation. When taking the decision, the authority will take into account any precautions taken by the claimant and any provocation offered by the claimant.

“Any insurance received by the claimant will be deducted from the compensation, so the claimant will only receive the shortfall in insurance. Claimants cannot recover any costs, such as legal costs, from the police compensation authority.”