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Rethinking Alcock in the new media age

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of European Tort Law
Issue number3
Number of pages28
Pages (from-to)272-299
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/12/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Whilst the English law of tort is generally favourable towards the psychiatric damage claims of primary victims, claims from secondary victims are treated in a much more restrictive manner. The leading case of Alcock v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police (Alcock) arising from the Hillsborough disaster establishes that amongst other things, secondary victims must overcome a number of control mechanisms in order to found a duty of care in negligence: There must be a close proximity of relationship with the immediate victim; and proximity in time, space and perception in relation to the shocking event. In relation to the means by which the shock is caused, the House of Lords in Alcock emphasised that perception was generally expected to be with one’s own unaided senses and that the viewing of a television broadcast of events would not normally suffice. However, the decades since the judgment have witnessed an explosion of new media platforms and technologies which have arguably transformed the dissemination of imagery. In light of this transformation, this article seeks to consider the implications of such technologies for the legal framework arising from Alcock, suggesting that the current approach fails to recognise the realities of the modern age in a number of ways. Looking to Australian jurisprudence as a basis for change, this article proposes how the law might be reformed to better reflect the contemporary world.