Claimants hope for end to four-year delays

by Christine Seib
Scotland's new fast-track hearings for asbestos-related compensation cases began on Monday.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon was appointed in December to set up new court procedures that would speed up and simplify the resolution of such cases.

He was appointed after asbestos action groups and solicitor Frank Maguire of Thompsons petitioned the Scottish Parliament over the delays in compensation hearings, stimulating significant media and public interest.

According to Maguire some sufferers of asbestos-related illnesses had waited up to four years to have their cases heard.

Following Lord Mackay's appointment, Scottish solicitors were asked to supply a list of ongoing asbestos-related compensation cases.

Lord Mackay will now manage the progression of these cases through the Court of Session.

Maguire, whose practice handles 90% of Scotland's asbestos compensation cases, said the previous system had allowed defendants to endlessly delay hearings.

He said some defendants used delaying tactics such as refusing to accept records such as apprenticeship papers as evidence of employment.

Others claimed well-known shipyards did not really exist, or did not build ships, he said.

Asbestos action groups welcomed the change.

Clydeside Action on Asbestos secretary Harry McCluskey said the appointment was "a direct result of the growing pressure for justice".

"Our members are the innocent victims who deserve a better deal than they are getting at present," he said.

Jim Cloughley of the Clydebank Asbestos Group said quicker compensation would allow victims better quality of life and provide security for their families.