Compensation for asbestos injury is under new threat

URGING RETHINK: Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.
URGING RETHINK: Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves.
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Victims of asbestos-related diseases face losing a quarter of their compensation to pay towards legal costs.

The Government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which is before Parliament, is aimed at reducing Government spending on the legal system.

It proposes to allocate 25 per cent of injury victims’ damages towards their legal costs. It includes victims of asbestos-related diseases.

Kimberley Stubbs, daughter of Armley asbestos victim June Hancock, slammed the move as “outrageous.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, whose constituency covers Armley where JW Roberts’ factory spewed deadly asbestos dust over the community, is campaigning with Leeds lawyer Jamie Hanley against the legislation. A cross-party group in the House of Lords also opposes the proposal.

June Hancock and her mother died of the incurable, asbestos-related lung cancer mesothelioma after living near the JW Roberts factory.

Mrs Hancock won compensation from factory owner Turner-Newall, setting a precedent for others. Claimants lost much of their compensation when Turner-Newall went into protective administration, securing its assets.

Now successful claimants face further losses.

Ms Reeves said: “I have met with local constituents whose lives have been tragically affected by exposure to asbestos, and seen first hand its impact on families. I find it unbelievable that the Government would seek to take money away from people who through no fault of their own were exposed to deadly asbestos fibres.”

Mrs Hancock’s daughter Kimberley said: “I am outraged and sickened by the injustice of these proposals. It is categorically wrong for innocent victims of this lethal dust to be expected to give up part of their compensation as well as their life.

“My mum was dead at only 61. Her life was taken from her in the most horrendous way. She never saw her grandchildren, or her son Russell get married.

“My mum spent the last three years of her life whilst gravely ill battling for justice in the courts. She succeeded against all the odds. Justice was secured for the many future innocent victims of exposure to asbestos. What my mum did took enormous courage. Now they propose to take away 25 per cent of the compensation. There is no justice in that.”

Ms Reeves and Mr Hanley have written a letter urging the Government to rethink.