Saturday, August 06, 2011

Ruling awaited in 16 year civil damages claim against Motherwell College and North Lanarkshire Council

Motherwell CollegeFinally, after some 8 weeks of hearings over a period of almost 2 years, a ruling is awaited regarding a workplace injury which occurred in 1995.  Yet questions remain over who or what delayed a civil damages claim for approximately 16 years against scandal hit Motherwell College. A RULING from Scotland’s Court of Session is awaited in what is the longest case of its kind on record - and which has taken SIXTEEN YEARS out of the life of Mr Martin Wilson, a Music Lecturer who suffered severe back injuries after help was denied to him in the course of his duties by its now former Principal Richard Millham. Mr Millham was dubbed a “Bully Boss” by national newspapers after Motherwell College lost a string of unfair dismissal claims brought by College staff, one of several unanimous decisions by Employment Tribunals confirming that Mr Wilson was Unfairly Dismissed while on long term sickness leave.

Lord WoolmanLord Woolman is the presiding judge in the present claim of  M.Wilson v North Lanarkshire Council & Others (A1628/01). Investigations reveal the case has already generated thousands of pages of transcripts, numerous hearings where internationally acclaimed expert medical witnesses from the UK and abroad disputed the testimony of Motherwell College’s own ‘experts’, with many legal observers stating the case could have been resolved years ago and appears to have been prolonged solely for the purpose of generating massive bills for legal fees from Motherwell College - paid in turn out of taxpayer funds.

An in depth investigation into the case, compiled with the help of observers to the legal proceedings and senior legal insiders, berated Motherwell College and its legal representatives for wilfully delaying for THIRTEEN YEARS after Mr Wilson’s injury before commissioning an expert ergonomics report in this manual handling claim, and then only after Mr Wilson had managed to gain access to the defenders premises - something no fewer than four 'normally reliable' firms of solicitors previously 'representing his best interests' had failed to do during the  THIRTEEN YEARS since the summons was served on Motherwell College.

Damning evidence from interviews with legal observers to the proceedings has revealed instances where despite the court suggesting the defenders make the “expert ergonomics report” available to Mr Wilson as soon as possible, the legal agents acting for Motherwell College - Simpson and Marwick - withheld the report until approximately 72 hours before the Proof was scheduled to begin in June of 2008, and then only handing it over on Court premises during a procedural hearing before Lord Penrose.

After being told of the report being withheld from the pursuer, Lord Penrose claimed that the defenders had been “playing fast and loose with due process in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage” and “had rendered the scheduled proof hearing unsafe”. Lord Penrose then invited Motherwell College representatives to apply for a postponement, which they did, and despite the party litigant being prepared to continue regardless - he had paid for distinguished expert witnesses to travel from destinations as far afield as the Western United States.

Taking the defenders legal representatives conduct into account, Lord Penrose described the situation as 'unfortunate' yet amazingly, no penalty was imposed on the defenders and these tactics, widely viewed as cynical delaying tactics, led to a further delay of over a year, the hearings finally getting started in November 2009 at the Court of Session under Lord Woolman. Later that month, and only after the Proof had begun, a ruling in the case brought about Scotland’s first Civil Law McKenzie Friend to appear in the Court of Session - a request which had previously been refused on more than one occasion.

Hearings in the case continued, according to court observers “sporadically” and one year later in November 2010 Motherwell College’s legal team told the court they were withdrawing their “expert ergonomics report” and would not be relying on it,.leading many observers to view the defender’s case as being “unsustainable”.

It can also now be revealed that out of a total of some SIXTEEN LAY WITNESSES to be called by Motherwell College, only FOUR eventually appeared, and none of those included the key player in Mr Wilson’s earlier successful Employment Tribunal Decision against the College, it’s disgraced former Principal, Richard Millham.

Astonishingly the defenders also suddenly decided at the last minute in January 2011 not to call the College's former Health and Safety Officer -  in a manual handling claim! - a consequence perhaps of the defenders failure to produce a single risk assessment or manual handling record. Observers to hearings of the case described the testimony of Motherwell College’s expert witnesses as “lacking any credibility whatsoever”, “highly scripted”, and “unusually combative”.

North Lanarkshire Council & Motherwell College were represented in court by Edinburgh law firm Simpson & Marwick. Senior Counsel for Simpson & Marwick was Ian MacKay QC, Junior Counsel was Calum Wilson both of Compass Chambers.

College's 300K Bully Bill Sunday Mail June 15 2003Motherwell College squandered £300K of taxpayers money fighting a string of Tribunal hearings involving bullying allegations against lecturers which the College lost. A number of media reports, referred to in earlier coverage, show Motherwell College were involved in a string of Employment Tribunal decisions the college lost during Richard Millham’s term as Principal of Motherwell College. Allegations in newspapers including the Sunday Mail reported that “In 1999, lecturer Martin Wilson won £4000 after a tribunal ruled he had been unfairly fired. He had a back injury and could not work. A close friend said : "He was targeted by Millham. There was a strong climate of fear, which is still there ."  We reported in earlier coverage that : “From 1995-1998 Motherwell College opposed Mr Wilson's claim for Unfair Dismissal while on long term sickness leave and lost, to a unanimous decision. Undeterred Motherwell College appealed the decision, and lost again. This was the first of several high profile Employment Tribunal cases lost by the Board of Management of Motherwell College, often to unanimous decisions against it.”

Law Journalist Peter Cherbi’s Diary of Injustice law blog also investigated the case, revealing in an article HERE that Marsh UK, the UK subsidiary of the US insurance firm Marsh & McLennan companies which saw some of its directors plead guilty as a result of an investigation by the New York District Attorney's Office of bid-rigging and price-fixing in the insurance industry had been linked to the case, after North Lanarkshire Council released details in response to a Freedom of Information request confirming it had recently taken on Marsh UK as its insurers.


Anonymous said...

The word TRAVESTY spings to mind.

Anonymous said...

the greedy liwyers must be making a pile from a 16 year old case!

Anonymous said...

Clearly there are credibility problems for Scottish justice if a case gets stuck in the system for 16 years..

Anonymous said...

This obscene delay has obviously been no accident.