Watching weekend TV has me returning to one of my favourite hobby horses – no win, no fee lawyers. Today’s trigger is particularly galling, as it involves somebody who has built a reputation on helping the needy fight the system and over the last 25+ years, has become the champion of children through a telephone help line called Childline. Even worse is the cynical use of the same format Esther Rantzen used in her highly successful TV show, That’s Life.
Esther Rantzen is now the ‘front-woman’ for a personal injury claims company, in other words, a bunch of no win, no fee lawyers. There are several other household names fronting TV ads for these ambulance chasers, but none has quite the gravitas of somebody who has a national reputation as a champion of exploited consumers and abused children.
My message to Esther Rantzen CBE is simple. Please find a different way of earning a crust Esther, preferably one that doesn’t ruthlessly exploit your good name with the public and thereby bring in to question your scruples.
Following on from the story that Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, is berating the health and safety culture in this country, I’d like to ask why it’s taking the politicians so long to address the real problem?
Health and safety legislation saves lives and prevents people from being seriously injured everyday. Unfortunately, it also encourages some officials, managers and bosses to go over the top, make silly decisions and sometimes lead to the H&S legislation becoming a laughing stock and an easy target for the press, but why? What are all these officials, managers and bosses afraid of? No win, no fee lawyers, that’s what.
Are our politicians kicking this issue in to the long grass because so many of them were themselves lawyers, solicitors, or even barristers before entering Parliament? It’s more than likely that, having been ‘in the job’, those who should be confronting this issue head on, are still closely associated with the profession in some way. This could be through a business partnership, a family member, or just having close friends plying the legal trade. If so, many of these MPs will be very keen to avoid biting the hand that feeds them, or upsetting the no win, no fee gravy train their professional mates are enjoying such a cushy ride on.
Today’s newspaper contains a story that Chris Grayling, the Employment Minister, is berating the health and safety culture that some bosses use to hide unpopular decisions behind. He is of course right to challenge this cynical use of H&S legislation, but this story smacks more of ministerial headline grabbing, than any serious attempt to address the issue.
Attacking health and safety in this wholesale fashion and demanding that everybody apply common sense when making decisions, is the lazy approach and ignores completely the reason why H&S has become both a blight and a joke to many – the no win, no fee lawyer.
Chris Grayling is calling for common sense from bosses, but without acknowledging that common sense immediately goes out of the window as soon as the lawyers become involved. How many companies pay up immediately they get that solicitor’s letter, instead of going to court and fighting their case, because it is nearly always the cheapest option.
The whole no win no fee system is obviously a lucrative business for the numerous companies now chasing every passing ambulance, as witnessed by the frequent adverts on television. If there was no H&S legislation, then there would be no law for these lawyers to sue under. However, lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s the no win no fee lawyers that need culling, not the H&S legislation that undoubtedly saves lives everyday of the week.
Unless these constantly circling sharks are dealt with, Mr Grayling is whistling in the wind and those who are vulnerable to being sued by a careless employee, or a customer or member of the public out to make a fast buck, will continue to play it safe – wouldn’t you?