Since when did making a claim amount to an agreed settlement?
I ask because we appear to have slipped into a world where the outcome of claims no longer matters to our national media. Take the case of PC Kelly Jones (take note, editors, she is not a WPC), a Norfolk officer who has reportedly started legal proceedings against a garage owner after she fell while investigating a burglary. The level of vitriol directed at PC Jones, given that we have yet to hear the full facts, has been staggering.
Former Met Police chief superintendent Dai Davies said she ‘looks like she regards the gym as an entirely alien environment’, while Richard Littlejohn (who knows a thing or two about devastating character assassinations) kindly suggested she was ‘visibly overweight with unkempt hair, she looks less like a policewoman and more like one of those ferocious female members of the ‘travelling community’’.
She was said in one article to be ‘in hiding’ at her parents’ home (roughly translated as ‘visiting relatives over Easter’).
I don’t know whether her claim will succeed, but given PC Jones is currently on sick leave with an unrelated medical condition so serious she needs an operation, perhaps jibes about her appearance are unwise. What strikes me as odd in the coverage is that everyone misses the obvious point: if PC Jones is on the take, then why not contest the claim?
From the coverage you would think this woman simply had to file a claim to pocket £50k, but there is the small matter of legal process to go through first. Instead, the defendant used the media to highlight this case and presumably hopes to bully PC Jones into withdrawing it. The danger of the media misreporting personal injury claims to suit a ‘health and safety gone mad’ agenda was highlighted in Lord Dyson’s marvelous deconstruction of the compensation culture myth last month.
You remember the McDonald’s coffee claim? That daft woman who couldn’t work out that a hot beverage might be, well, hot - and drove away with it between her legs?
Turns out the woman in question was a passenger in a stationary car when the coffee, heated to 190 degrees, spilt and soaked through her trousers to give her third-degree burns. She was in hospital for eight days, had to undergo skin grafts and was partially disabled for two years. McDonalds had been subject to 700 claims in 10 years arising from coffee burns. Still, not as funny as ‘cash bonanza for coffee slapstick’ is it?
There appears to be an assumption in much of the coverage that says police should never be allowed to make a claim for personal injury suffered whilst on duty. The redoubtable ‘proper copper’ Davies, who appears to have been transported straight from the set of Life on Mars, insists he would have regarded compensation for his various injuries as ‘laughable’. I wonder how hard he would have laughed if his house needed modifying to cope with a disability, or he needed costly round-the-clock care?
The police are entitled to the same duty of care from owner/occupiers as afforded to the rest of us. They’re public servants, not martyrs. And if they don’t make a claim, it doesn’t mean their injuries magically vanish: just that we, the taxpayer, end up paying their bill.
John Hyde is a Gazette reporter
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