Trespassers have rights

By Richard Paremain

If you are trespassing on someone else's land and have an accident due to the condition of those premises you might be forgiven for thinking that's a bit of bad luck but is not something you could bring a claim for compensation for " you shouldn't have been there so tough luck"?

It has long been the case that anyone who is a lawful (usually invited) visitor to a property is protected under the Occupiers liability Act 1957. This means that the occupier, which is usually the owner or the person in charge of the land, is under a duty to take reasonable steps to see that lawful visitors are safe when they visit.

If someone was injured due to a lack of care by the occupier there is a good chance that a claim would succeed. This law applies to all places which we commonly visit; shops, supermarkets, pubs restaurants department stores and nightclubs. It also applies to your place of work where the same rules apply (in addition to other duties imposed upon employers).

The law has long  accepted that if a person is invited onto or into premises or, if there is an implied invitation, like someone delivering to a front door, then those with control of the premises must care for the safety of visitors.

Unhappily until relatively recently this did not apply to trespassers. One can understand the rationale behind this distinction. If you are somewhere you should not be why should the occupier be concerned for your safety.

The courts have however recognized that trespassers do have rights. The duty on occupiers is not the same here as it is for lawful visitors but occupiers must bring to the attention of anyone known or who ought reasonably be anticipated to trespass, dangers which he is aware of and which might not be immediately obvious. The courts probably had children particularly in mind in these sorts of cases and the rights of trespassers are limited. However just because someone is trespassing does not mean they do not have protection and might not bring a claim.