Advertising in prison: the compensation factor
TOWARDS THE END OF 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 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,
and in the
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.
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. 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 wrote 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.