Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Will you take a cheque, Tompkins?

Joining the Ancient and Worshipful Order of Bloggers involves swearing a sacred oath that you will never use the phrase "political correctness gone mad". That can present a problem when you come across a story like this one from today's Leicester Mercury:

A boy who broke into a primary school and injured himself swinging on a gate was received £5,700 in compensation.

The secondary school pupil, who was trespassing at night on school grounds, was hurt when the gate collapsed.

Leicestershire County Council had to pay money to the boy because they say they could not prove the gate had been maintained properly.
It is not as if a landlord had set his estate with man traps and spring guns. It is not as if the boy wandered innocently on to private land. If the facts are as presented, he was a secondary school pupil who broke into a primary school.

And does a council really have to keep detailed maintenance records for all its properties in case a burglar injures himself?

But before you start moaning about loony council or P******** C********** G*** M**, read further. You will see who the real villains are:
A city school head teacher said no-win, no-fee insurance claim companies were targeting schools, leading to rocketing insurance premiums.

He said: "Within the first week of starting to work at my school I was told to look back at a case where a boy had been injured seven or eight years ago and was trying to get compensation.

"There was another incident where the council wanted to pay out about £5,000 to a child who had fallen in the playground.

"It was only a minor injury and we'd dealt with it really well. If we start paying out that kind of compensation we are opening up the floodgates to compensation in the smallest of cases such as grazed knee or broken fingers."
The inevitable result of such commercial pressures and judicial rulings is that councils will make schools even more of a fortress than they are now. Benign activities like children using school playing fields for kickabouts out of school hours will become impossible.

As I have no doubt remarked before, the paradox is that the more rights we give children, the less freedom they have.

2 comments:

Tom Papworth said...

It has long been established in Common Law that landlords still have a duty of care to trespassers.

It's a bit crazy, I grant you, but I don't think it has anything to do with political correctness (which is, by definition, newfangled).

It's a shame, though. If I want to have a room in my house that resembles an Indina Jones set, why shouldn't I be allowed to? It's not my fault if somebody breaks in and has no idea where the trip-wire for the poison darts is.

I wonder how the army keep Salisbury Plain safe for trespassers!

On a separate point, rights have always been opposed to freedom. "Rights" are handed down from on high and convey power over others; "Freedoma" are inherent and means that nobody has power over you.

smallbeds said...

Many no-win-no-fee companies do admittedly make life difficult. But when the local police effectively abandoned my case as too problematic for their doughnut-eating heads (I was knocked off my bicycle by a coach) a local, decent solicitor took the case on a NWNF basis and won me appropriate compensation: less than £5000, I might add.

There's no easy way round this: a system that punishes lax and negligent landowners and employers will be used to screw decent, hardworking fami-, er, organisations. Maybe the solution is to require NWNF outfits to earn a certain proportion of their income from other types of case, but that might have the same knock-on effects as other quotas have tended to do, leading to deserving cases losing out.

(I imagine Salisbury Plain has a lot of yellow signs on it, is how they do it: Tom's Indiana-Jones room would need some sort of warning too. I recommend "CAUTION: CONDEMNED!")