More British Victims, Less Support
This week, the Health and Safety Executive released figures showing an inexorable rise in asbestos-related deaths in Britain. UK mesothelioma deaths have increased from 153 in 1968 to 2,321 in 2009. Male mortality accounted for 80% of the deaths, with construction workers at the highest risk of contracting mesothelioma.1 The national epidemic of asbestos-related diseases shows no signs of abating. For the period 1983-1985 there were 22.1 and 3.2 deaths per million respectively for males and females the comparable figures for 2007-2009 were 64.2 and 12.3.
Even as this epidemic continues to decimate communities throughout the country, the coalition government is taking steps to shut down routes by which victims gain compensation for their injuries from negligent employers. On November 2, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill was approved by 306 to 228 in a House of Commons vote. Should this proposal become law, the no-win, no-fee arrangement which enables asbestos claimants to bring personal injury cases will be scrapped.2 Commenting on the government's plans, mesothelioma sufferer Trevor Oldham explained that he would never have taken on the stress of claiming compensation if I had to take any financial risk. If this Bill is passed many asbestos victims will never claim compensation and never get the justice they deserve.3 Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Group Tony Whitston says:
This Bill misses the target: it punishes innocent victims instead of tackling real issues with the system, such as irresponsible claims marketing and fraudulent claims. We are calling on MPs and Lords to listen to the voice of the victims, and address the inherent problems with this Bill, which will hinder victims' access (to) justice if it goes through in its present form.
The bill will now go to the House of Lords.
November 4, 2011
3 Press Release. Charities warn that Legal Aid Bill will hinder access to rightful compensation among injured, bereaved and dying victims. October 28, 2011.