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Businesses can recover uninsured losses from the police

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An ancient law allows uninsured businesses to recover compensation for damage caused by riots directly from the police. 

The Riot (Damages) Act 1886 applies to any “house, shop or building” which has been damaged, or had its contents damaged, by “any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together”. 

The police are required to pay compensation to any person who has suffered losses as a result, including those who have had property stolen. This would cover not only the owners of the businesses, but (for example) owners of clothes which were damaged by looting of a dry cleaners. 

A claim must be made to the police force within 14 days, so it is important that all business owners act promptly. A special form must be used (see appendix to the SI), evidence of losses must be supplied, and the person claiming is usually required to swear on oath that their claim is genuine. The form must be sent to either the clerk to the police authority, or the clerk to the county council, depending on which police district is involved. 

Compensation can be reduced if the property owner failed to take reasonable care (eg they left their premises unlocked). 

Insured businesses should note that their insurers can also recover losses from the police, provided the police are notified within 14 days. For this reason, most insurance policies which cover damage by riot require that the insurance company be notified of the claim within seven days, giving the insurance company another seven days to notify the police. If the business to lodge an insurance claim within this period, they will probably lose the right to claim.