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Keystone Law wins Court of Appeal victory following Enfield riot damage

Keystone Law’s Lawrence Abramson has won an important Court of Appeal case against the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC) on behalf his clients, video labels, Lace International, Clear Vision and Asphyxiation Films.

The labels, all suffered damage when their stock held at a Sony warehouse in Enfied was destroyed during the 2011 London riots, and were claiming approximately £3 million as a result of the destruction of this stock.

Following an earlier High Court decision which had found the MOPC liable for this loss, the MOPC were appealing on the issue of liability, and Keystone’s clients, as well as other insurers who had paid out to Sony, were cross-appealing on the question of whether damages could extend to consequential loss. The Court of Appeal dismissed the MOPC’s appeal that it had no liability under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 and upheld the insurers’ and labels appeals that consequential loss was in principle recoverable.

The facts of the case centred around the riots which occurred in London following the shooting and killing by police of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in August 2011. During that period, on 8 August, a gang of youths broke into a Sony distribution warehouse in Enfield, looted it, and burned it down with petrol bombs. Keystone acted on behalf of the three video labels (referred to above).

Under section 2(1) of the 1886 Act the police is obliged to pay compensation out of a police fund of the relevant area to any person who suffers loss “where a house, shop, or building in a police area has been injured or destroyed, or the property therein has been injured, stolen, or destroyed, by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together”.

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s view that this right to compensation is not fault-based, but that it is strict. The Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Moore-Bick stating that: “Strictly speaking, all that matters for the purposes of the Act is whether the group which attacked the warehouse was riotously and tumultuously assembled at the time they caused the damage”.

Lawrence commented:

“This important Court of Appeal ruling will come as a relief to my clients. All three of them held very valuable stock at the Sony Warehouse in question. We are absolutely delighted that our clients will get the compensation they are due”.

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