Access to justice is one of the key themes in the election manifestos of the main political parties.
The Conservative manifesto was launched on Thursday 18 May. In response to a campaign led by the Hillsborough families, they would set up an “independent public advocate, who will act for bereaved families after a public disaster”.
Earlier this year, I fully supported Andy Burnham’s call on the government to adopt a so-called “Hillsborough law”, that would give bereaved families the same resources as the police to make their case at future inquests.
The families of the 96 football fans who died in the Hillsborough stadium disaster had to raise the money to pay for their own lawyers at the earlier inquests in 1991, while South Yorkshire police had a top legal team.
There are no more difficult circumstances to cope with than the Inquest into the deaths of a loved one. Families are left to cope on their own and attempt to ask relevant questions when in a bereaved state. How can families in these circumstances question the might of corporations? This in balance of justice has been allowed to continue for too long and is solely down to penny pinching at the expense of the bereaved.
While I welcome the fact that the Conservative Party has addressed this issue in its manifesto, I believe the public advocate concept is flawed. Surely bereaved families should have the right to choose instruct the solicitor of their choice. Introducing a public advocate is effectively denying them this option.
On a more positive note, I fully endorse the pledge to crack down on exaggerated and fraudulent whiplash claims and consider a ban on companies’ cold calling people encouraging them to make false personal injury claims.