Lord Hoffmann has spoken out against Law Commission proposals to help individuals seek redress against public bodies.
Currently, individuals must establish that the public body owes them a specific statutory duty or is in breach of a duty of care at common law before bringing a claim for loss. In January 2009, the Law Commission proposed abolishing this and instead letting individuals claim compensation if the public body has been “seriously at fault” in the exercise of its powers—an entirely new concept in English law.
In a speech on “Reforming the law of public authority negligence”, Lord Hoffmann said: “I think that is an absolutely terrible idea and I hope it will be quietly dropped.” Creating such a liability would add to the financial burdens on the public body. Moreover, public bodies must make choices about spending priorities, therefore asking judges to decide on these choices would be inappropriate, he said.