Beyond the ‘Tomlinson Trap’: Analysing the Effectiveness of Section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006

Neil Partington

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One of the intentions underpinning section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006 was to provide reassurance to individual volunteers, and voluntary organisations, involved in what the provision called ‘desirable activities’ and including sport. The perception was that such volunteers, motivated by an apprehension about their increased vulnerability to negligence liability, and as driven by a fear of a wider societal compensation culture, were engaging excessively in risk-averse behaviour to the detriment of such socially desirable activities. Academic commentary on section 1 of the Compensation Act 2006 has largely regarded the provision as unnecessary and doing little more than restating existing common law practice. This article argues otherwise and, on critically reviewing the emerging jurisprudence, posits the alternative view that section 1, in practice, affords an enhanced level of protection and safeguarding for individuals undertaking functions in connection with a desirable activity. Nonetheless, the occasionally idiosyncratic judicial interpretation given to term ‘desirable activity’, potentially compounded by recent enactment of the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015, remains problematic. Two points of interest will be used to inform this debate. First, an analysis of the then House of Lords’ decision in Tomlinson and its celebrated ‘balancing exercise’ when assessing reasonableness in the context of negligence liability. Second, a fuller analysis of the application of section 1 in the specific context of negligence actions relating to the coaching of sport where it is argued that the, albeit limited, jurisprudence might support the practical utility of a heightened evidential threshold of gross negligence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Early online date15 Jun 2016
Publication statusEarly online date - 15 Jun 2016


  • Compensation Act 2006
  • Negligence
  • Desirable Activity
  • Volunteer
  • Sport


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