Ruling could open a can of worms that might never be closed – says Wicklow landowner

By: William O’Toole

The decision last Friday by the Circuit Court to award a Dublin woman €40,000 following a fall on the Wicklow Way could be ‘opening a can of worms that might never be closed’.

That’s the view of a Wicklow landowner who now says that he is thinking strongly of preventing members of the public from walking on his land.

The owner, who has a large portion of land in the east of the county, told this evening that the ruling could also have an serious impact across the country.

“For centuries, people have walked along the land that I own, when I bought the land I never had a problem with them walking on it.

“I always insisted that they closed gates and didn’t litter and in fairness I never had one problem with anyone walking on the land. It was there before my time and will still be there after I am gone.”

Speaking anonymously this evening he said that he is now considering closing his land off to the public.

“Its not something I ever thought I’d have to do, indeed its not something I want to do, but I feel I have no choice now.

“If someone decides to take a walk on my land, then that is their choice and they are entitled to make that choice, but I would be worried now that if someone fell then they could easily take me to court and I’d be held responsible.”

Section 4 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995 states that a landowner owes a recreational user or trespasser a duty not to intentionally injure them or damage their property and not act with reckless disregard for the person or their property.

“This is what worries me.” he said.

“There would be nothing stopping someone who was on my land taking a fall and then deciding to take me to court, I don’t see how that would be fair.

“I think if this ruling is allowed stand then I would close of my land completely, it wouldn’t be worth the hassle.”

“Hill walking, by its nature, involves a small degree of risk, and I would think it very unfair if I was at risk of finding myself at the end of a lawsuit through no fault of my own.”

Yesterday it was confirmed that the ruling would be challenged in the High Court and papers to that effect are to be lodged in the coming days.




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