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The prison governor, the notice and the question of compensation

Cleared: the story of Shieldfield

Shieldfield news and links

The report of the Home Affairs Select Committee

Trawling goes on trial

Crusade or witch-hunt?

Do you care to go to jail?

Care goes on trial

A global village rumour

What the BBC did not tell us

Crusade or witch-hunt?

Do you care to go to jail?

End this cruel injustice

The new injustices

Similar fact evidence

The Cosgrove letter

How our demons fuel witch-hunts

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ACAL: The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers

Abney Garsden Macdonald

Abney Garsden McDonald: child abuse group actions

Home Affairs Select Committee Report: the compensation factor

From the evidence of Peter Garsden to the Home Affairs Committee

Advertising in prison: the compensation factor

last year, some two weeks before Christmas, news reached me that a notice had been posted on the noticeboards of Wakefield Prison about a group compensation action against a particular care home in Birmingham. The notice, which was signed by the governor of the prison, invited any prisoner who wished to join the action to contact the solicitors who were dealing with it. 


Because the posting of this notice seemed highly dangerous, in that it might very well encourage prisoners to fabricate allegations in an attempt to join the action, I wrote a short piece about it for this website which appeared under the title ‘Christmas is coming’. 


Recently Pannone and Partners, the solicitors’ firm who are handling the action, whose name and address featured in the notice, wrote to me at considerable length to complain that the article unfairly criticised their firm. 

Since its main purpose was to criticise the conduct of the prison governor – while acknowledging that he almost certainly acted as he did out of the best of intentions – this complaint was a surprising one. But as Pannone and Partners criticised me for failing to draw attention to the possible justification for posting such a notice, I have rewritten the article in order to do so. I have also removed one or two sentences which they chose to construe as reflecting unfairly on their motives in seeking to publicise the group action. 

However, the more carefully I examined the whole nature of group actions of this kind the more disturbed I became by the scale of what is now happening and by the very dangers to which the original version of the article drew attention. It seemed to me that these group actions warranted more consideration than I had in fact given them.  


In this respect I should perhaps acknowledge here that one of the principal shortcomings of my book, The Great Children's Home Panic,  is its failure to deal adequately with the question of compensation. By focusing too much on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and the availability of compensation through this route, I directed attention away from where the real problems stem – namely from group actions (or ‘multi-party’ claims) conducted in the civil courts.

The journalist who has done most to repair this deficiency is David Rose who, in his BBC Panorama film In the name of the children, shown in November 2000, and in the accompanying Observer article  gave a great deal of attention to the manner in which the civil process was, as he put it, in danger of contaminating the criminal justice system.  

Partly because of David Rose’s work the problem of group actions and their dangers featured prominently in the evidence given to the Home Affairs Select Committee, and in their report.

So far I have failed to address this problem in any detail. But, in the light of the letters received from Pannone and Partners, I have given the whole question a great deal more thought. As a result I have completely rewritten the piece in question and an article which was originally some 700 words long has now become a substantial essay, which is much more critical of the current legal system than the original article ever was. I have also included with it a number of links to websites which help to convey something of the scale of this whole problem. 

Although it was clearly not the intention of Pannone and Partners to provoke such a comprehensive reworking of the article when they originally complained to me, I am, in a sense, grateful to them for forcing me to give more attention to an aspect of trawling and of the compensation culture which I had previously neglected.

I hope that they, and any other firm which conducts this kind of action in care home cases, will understand that the criticisms which the article contains are not solely, or even principally, aimed at their firms. They are in reality directed against an entire system of litigation. For, as I write: ‘
solicitors handling such claims actually find themselves ensnared within a system which is inimical to an even-handed, properly investigative approach to the very serious allegations with which they are dealing.’

For the expanded version of the article, which now bears the title ‘The prison governor, the notice and the question of compensation’ please click here.

10 March, 2003                             


© Richard Webster, 2002