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British Railways Board v Herrington [1972] AC 877 House of Lords

A six year old boy was electrocuted and suffered severe burns when he wondered from a play park onto a live railway line. The railway line was surrounded by a fence however, part of the fence had been pushed down and the gap created had been used frequently as a short cut to the park. The defendant was aware of the gap in the fence which had been present for several months, but had failed to do anything about it. Under existing authority of Addie v Dumbreck no duty of care was owed to trespassers. However, the House of Lords departed from their previous decision using the 1966 Practice Statement and held that the defendant railway company did owe a duty of common humanity to trespassers.

Lord Pearson:

"It seems to me that the rule in Addie v. Dumbreck has been rendered obsolete by changes in physical and social conditions and has become an incumbrance impeding the proper development of the law. With the increase of the population and the larger proportion living in cities and towns and the extensive substitution of blocks of flats for rows of houses with gardens or back yards and quiet streets, there is less playing space for children and so a greater temptation to trespass. There is less supervision of children, so that they are more likely to trespass. Also with the progress of technology there are more and greater dangers for them to encounter by reason of the increased use of, for instance, electricity, gas, fast moving vehicles, heavy machinery and poisonous chemicals. There is considerably more need than there used to be for occupiers to take reasonable steps with a view to deterring persons, especially children, from trespassing in places that are dangerous for them.

In my opinion the Addie v. Dumbreck formulation of the duly of occupier to trespasser is plainly inadequate for modern conditions, and its rigid and restrictive character has impeded the proper development of the common law in this field. It has become an anomaly and should be discarded."
 
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