Occupiers’ duty of care reforms passed as part of bumper bill

Occupiers' duty of care reforms passed as part of bumper bill

Helen McEntee

Reforms to duty of care legislation have been approved by the Oireachtas as part of a wide-ranging bill including provisions on bankruptcy, legal services, data protection, naturalisation and Irish citizenship.

The Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2023 completed its final stages in the Dáil yesterday and will now be referred to the president to be signed into law.

Among the provisions of the bill are amendments to the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995 in relation to the duty of care, which the government pursued as part of its action plan on insurance reform.

The bill changes the standard to clarify that when the occupier of a property has acted with reckless disregard for a visitor or customer, it is the standard of reckless disregard rather than reasonable grounds which should apply in relation to any consideration of liability.

It also limits the circumstances in which a court can impose liability on the occupier of a premises where a person has entered onto premises for the purpose of committing an offence, and allows for a broader range of scenarios where it can be shown that a visitor or customer has voluntarily assumed a risk resulting in harm.

Justice minister Helen McEntee said: “These measures strike a new and reasonable balance between the responsibilities of the owner or operator of a premises to keep their customers and visitors safe, and what individuals themselves must do when entering a business, club or community building for example.

“The passage of this legislation marks an important step in our efforts to make insurance more available and cheaper.”

James Browne, minister of state for law reform, said: “This legislation has brought forward a number of important law reforms, across a broad range of areas. The legislation extends its influence to various aspects of individuals’ lives and has the potential to create positive and tangible differences.”

The final version of the bill also contains amendments to matters including Irish nationality and citizenship, court offices, bankruptcy, international protection, data protection, immigration and legal services.

Legislation governing the granting of Irish citizenship will be changed. The period of time a non-Irish child born in Ireland must wait before they can be naturalised will be reduced from five to three years.

Numerous changes will be made to legislation related to the courts and court officers. One example is the creation of a centralised office to administer the summoning of juries, in addition to enabling the Courts Service to designate any court office as a centralised office for the purpose of carrying out specified court business.

Mr Browne said: “This legislation will assist in achieving many of the strategic goals set out in the Justice Plan 2023. A core goal has been making access to justice easier and equitable; by modernising and rationalising a number of administrative processes this bill does just that.

“Ultimately, the enactment of this legislation will contribute to our work of ensuring a safe, fair and inclusive Ireland.”

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