UK: Guide To The Riot (Damages) Act 1886

Last Updated: 26 August 2011
Article by Mark Wing and Helen Bourne

The world watched in disbelief as a wave of lawlessness swept from Tottenham on 6 August 2011 throughout London and across the UK. For many, homes, premises and livelihoods have been wiped out in a matter of days. As the UK counts the costs of repairing the damage, we set out below a guide to making a claim under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.


The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 (the Act) places a strict liability on the police fund to compensate any person (including corporate bodies) who/that has sustained losses as a result of acts of theft or damage to their property arising from a riot. Ordinarily, claims must be made within 14 days of the damage or theft taking place and must follow the format prescribed in the Riot Damage Regulations 1921 (the Regulations). However, on 11 August 2011, the UK Government announced an extension of the deadline to 42 days for claims to be submitted. In addition, a simplified Riot Damages Act Claim Form has just been released.

What is a riot?

"Riot" for the purposes of the Act is defined by Section 1 Public Order Act 1986 which provides:

"(1)Where 12 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using unlawful violence for the common purpose is guilty of riot.

(2) It is immaterial whether or not the 12 or more use or threaten unlawful violence simultaneously.

(3) The common purpose may be inferred from conduct.

(4) No person of reasonable firmness need actually be or likely to be, present at the scene.

(5) Riot may be committed in private as well as in public areas."

At the time of writing, the Metropolitan Police has not declared the disturbances as a riot. If a riot is not declared by the police the burden will rest on a claimant to provide sufficient evidence to satisfy the definition and enable recovery under the Act. In any event, each incidence of damage would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Based on an assumption that recent incidents would satisfy the requisite definition of "riot", the key aspects of the claims process that arise under the Act are outlined below.

Who can claim?

Section 2(1) of the Act provides as follows:

"Where a ... house, shop or building ... has been injured or destroyed, or the property therein has been injured, stolen or destroyed, by any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together ... compensation shall be paid out of the Police Fund of the area to any person who has sustained loss by such injury, stealing or destruction; but in fixing the amount of such compensation, regard should be had to the conduct of the said person ..."

It follows that any owner of property damaged by a riot is entitled to compensation direct from the police fund in that area, irrespective of any negligence or blame which may or may not attach to the policing of said riot. Where such losses have been indemnified by insurers, Section 2(2) of the Act enables the insurer to claim directly for such losses.

What losses may be claimed?

The Act only compensates for physical damage to a "house, shop or building" and the theft or damage of any property contained therein arising from the riot. "House, shop or building" includes any premises attached or annexed to the property which enhances said property or its use.

It is unlikely that a claimant would be able to claim for losses arising from personal injury or for any property which is not located within the confines of a building. For example, a claimant would not be able to claim for a car parked on the street although it would be able to claim under the Act if this same car was parked in a garage.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Act, when assessing the claim the Compensating Authority shall "fix such compensation as appears to them just". If a claimant has insurance then this must be stipulated on the form and credit must be given in the form of a deduction from the amount claimed, which represents the amount of indemnity that would be available. No legal costs can be claimed under the Act.

When and how is the claim made?

Ordinarily, all claims must be made within 14 clear days after the day of the damage and/or theft. However, following pressure from the ABI (amongst others) the Government has extended the deadline to 42 days.

Claims may be made on the claim form prescribed by the Regulations, or on the new, simplified claim form which has just been released. A copy of the new Riot Damages Act Claim Form is attached to this briefing note.

A claimant may be required to verify the claim by making a statutory declaration and may have to procure additional declarations to satisfy the police authority that the provisions of the Act are satisfied and that the amount of compensation claimed is just.

As a precautionary measure, it is advisable that claims are submitted on behalf of both insureds and insurers (where appropriate). Where insurers are ultimately entitled to do so, they should bring a claim in their own name. However, waiting until such time as the insurer actually suffers a loss, that is when any degree of an indemnity has been made under the policy, may lead to delay beyond the prescribed deadline.

Who should the claim be made to?

Section 3(1) of the Act provides that claims for compensation should be made to the compensation authority of the police area in which the events took place. The relevant compensation authority for Greater London will be the Metropolitan Police District Fund, and claims relating to the Metropolitan area should be addressed to the Director of Resources (currently Anne McMeel). For areas outside of London, claims should be addressed to either the clerk to the County Council, or the clerk to the local police authority, depending on the county involved.

Right of Appeal

In circumstances where a claim is either refused by the compensation authority, or the amount of an award is unsatisfactory, a claimant can pursue a civil claim against the compensation authority to recover the amounts in dispute, up to the value of the original claim, but would be liable to pay any adverse costs in the usual way.

Business Interruption

Whilst it is clear that physical property loss or damage may form part of a claim under the Act, the position in relation to Business Interruption (BI) losses is less clear. BI losses, such as loss of rent or trade, are not specifically provided for in the claim form prescribed by the Regulations or in the new, simplified claim form. However, until this ambiguity is resolved, BI losses should be included in the claim form to err on the side of caution. There is growing speculation that such losses may well be covered although it remains to be seen whether such losses will ultimately be accepted by the compensation authority.

In the event that BI losses are rejected by the compensation authority, the precise wording of any relevant policy will need to be scrutinised to determine the extent of such cover. Policies that include extensions for Contingent Business Interruption or loss of attraction will likely make recovery of such losses more straightforward.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.