Campagining at the Scottish Parliament

Asbestos victims must not lose out through court reform

Asbestos sufferers from all over Scotland will arrive at the Scottish Parliament this afternoon to demand Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill does not penalise them as part of his new court reform law as MSPs are set to consider changes to Scotland’s civil court system being proposed by the Court Reform Scotland Bill.

CAA  are very concerned that the proposed changes will see very complex asbestos cases moved from Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session,  to a new type of personal injury court. The Court of Session is highly experienced at dealing with asbestos cases and all this experience will be lost if cases are moved to another court.

There is also huge concern that specialist Solicitors Advocates, who currently represent asbestos victims at the Court of Session, will find it far more difficult to work in the newly created personal injury court.  This of course would be good news for the insurance industry who use their huge financial resources to do all they can to prevent asbestos victims and their families claiming damages.

Lord Gill, Scotland’s most senior judge, recommended that while reform to the civil court system was needed, the most complicated and important cases must remain at the Court of Session.  Asbestos cases easily meet both those criteria and so should be exempted from the reforms.

Phyllis Craig, chairperson of Clydeside Action on Asbestos, has organised the visit to Scottish Parliament:

Asbestos victims from all over Scotland are coming to Holyrood today to make a personal plea to Kenny MacAskill. They’re saying please don’t allow your new court reform to stop us and our families getting justice for what’s been done to us. That’s a very powerful message and I sincerely hope that Mr MacAskill hears it. Asbestos related Illness is a shameful legacy of Scotland’s industrial past and more victims than ever are coming forward. He may not have intended it but the Justice Secretary’s reform will end up stacking the odds very much in favour of the insurance companies who, to their shame, will use any means they can to avoid admitting liability. The men and women suffering these conditions must be protected by our justice system not forgotten about in the drive for reform.

Ron Marsh from Stonehaven, who’s in his 70’s, is one of the asbestos victims who will be at Holyrood today. He was exposed to asbestos when he worked in the Cowlairs industrial area of Glasgow decades ago. He said that it was important for him to make the journey to Edinburgh to show the Scottish Parliament just how important this issue is:

Asbestos related illness is the most awful thing you can imagine. It causes enormous physical pain for those who contract it and terrible grief to their families. My message for our justice secretary is very simple. Mr MacAskill please do not allow court reform to hand a gift to the insurance industry who behave in a shameful way towards asbestos victims and their families. Our justice system must be on the side of victims and asbestos sufferers across Scotland expect you and your government to be on their side.

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