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Legal Defintions used within Fire Protection

By October 10, 2012Blog

What is the legal definition of….



Legal Definition of Reasonableness 

Modern legislation frequently uses vague terminology such as ‘appropriate’ and ‘reasonable’. This type of language is commonplace in both health and safety, and fire legislation. It is common when cases concerning criminal negligence are heard for either the defence or prosecution to refer to persuasive definitions and extracts from the legal commentary made by judges in other cases.



‘The man on the Clapham omnibus’, is in legal speak, ‘the reasonable person’. This is a phrase that was first used by Sir Charles Bowen, QC (later Lord Bowen). He was the junior council against the claimant in the Tichborne case (1871-4).

This is a passage from Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, 16th Edition


The man on the Clapham omnibus or in other words the man in the street means the average ordinary English person (of either sex)…. The choice of the bus from Clapham, an area of South-West London, has no special meaning; it is just a typical bus from a fairly ordinary place…. 

This is a passage from Oxford Guide to British and American Culture




‘Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.’

This is a passage from a judgment by Alderson B.


‘The standard of foresight of the reasonable man is in one sense an impersonal test. It eliminates the personal equation and is independent of the idiosyncrasies of the particular person whose conduct is in question.’

This is a passage from a judgment by Lord Macmillan.


Generally, the standard of care/foresight a person is expected to attain is an objective standard derived from what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances.

‘Where you get a situation which involves the use of some special skill or competence, then the test…is not the test of the man on the top of a Clapham omnibus, because he has not got this special skill. The test is the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have that special skill.’ This is a passage from a judgment by McNair J.


Further advice

For further information on this issue contact your local Community Fire Safety Officer; visit the Government web-site: www.communties.gov.uk