On Easter Monday a man was pictured holding his child to look over the Seven Sisters Cliff in East Sussex. The image prompted the National Trust to warn people to "act sensibly" around the cliffs.

The Seven Sisters National Park is managed by East Sussex County Council. This incident is one of many similar incidents with visitors posing for photographs, others simply enjoying the view from the edge. In 2017 a tourist fell and suffered fatal injuries.

The story highlights the difficulties faced by those occupying land which is used by the public. What should an occupier do to guard against accidents - and to what extent is the occupier liable if something goes wrong?

Although it has long been accepted, North and South of the border, that occupiers need not warn of "obvious" dangers; there is a duty to warn visitors about unexpected hazards. There is however no duty to prevent access to the hazard or to render the area entirely safe. At the Seven Sisters Cliff there are warning signs; however there are now calls for signs in different languages - to reflect the number of tourists visiting the spot.

The question of liability for any accidents is likely to be determined by whether or not the Council did enough to make the risks posed by the cliff obvious, to everyone likely to be there. If the hazard is made sufficiently obvious, then any adult choosing to go too close to the edge is unlikely to have a claim if something goes wrong.


Kate Donachie

Legal Director