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Aftermath of the riots - who will foot the bill?

After four nights of rioting and looting the clean up operation has begun, but who will foot the bill? By Gavin Matthews, Head of Retail at Bond Pearce.


Aftermath of the riots - who will foot the bill?

After four nights of rioting and looting the clean up operation has begun, but who will foot the bill? By Gavin Matthews, Head of Retail at Bond Pearce.

As Britain starts to pick up the pieces, it is retailers who have been hit hardest – with early indicators that more than 10% of UK retail and leisure businesses have been directly affected.  Some retailers affected by the riots could use a 125 year old law called The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 to recoup costs from the police for loss of or damage to property incurred as a result of the riots.  However to do this, any claim under the Act must be made in writing and received by the local police authority within 14 days of the alleged incident.  STOP PRESS: David Cameron has announced an extension of the deadline from 14 to 42 days.  He also confirmed that the government will meet the cost of ‘legitimate’ claims.

Damage caused by the riots - Can I claim compensation?

The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 (the Act) places local police authorities under a strict liability to compensate persons who sustain damage to or loss of property as a result of a riot.  "Riot" is defined as 12 or more persons present together using or threatening unlawful violence for a common purpose and whose conduct would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.  It is not necessary for anyone to be present and actually harmed.

If you have sustained damage to/loss of property in the course of the riots (that fits within the limits of the definition given above) then you should collate the following documentation as soon as practically possible:

1. Statements from witnesses to confirm number of persons involved, how the damage complained of was caused and any other relevant background information;

2. A statement from a proper officer of the company setting out the details of the claim and endorsed with a statement of truth.

3. Copies of any photographs and/or CCTV footage of the incident complained of and copies of any relevant documents in support of the claim;

4. If repairs have been completed, an invoice in respect of those repairs; or, if repairs are possible but have not yet been completed, a specification of the repairs required and an estimate by a competent person of their cost;

5. For property in premises that has been damaged, destroyed or stolen, a list specifying each article separately and the sum claimed for it together with receipts/vouchers for the sums paid for it.

These documents should be submitted, together with the relevant form specified by the Regulations made under the Act to the local police authority within the 14 day deadline. STOP PRESS: for claims relating to the riots of August 2011, this window has been extended to 42 days.

You should also check your insurance provisions carefully.  Insurers will typically include within the Claims Notification Clause to the policy a requirement for any claim for riot and/or civil commotion to be notified to Insurers immediately with full supporting documentation within 7 days of the incident occurring specifically to guard against the risk of falling foul of the 14 day deadline referred to above.

Finally, the Act excludes liability for loss or damage to cars left on public highways, goods left in shops for repair and/or consequential losses (including business interruption).

If you think that you may be entitled to claim and would like our assistance to maximise your recovery, please contact Christian Charlesworth on 0845 4156672 or by email at


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