The UNISON Supreme Court victory: a lesson on the rule of law that many need to learn

The lead Judgment of Lord Reed in the Supreme Court case that Unison had brought against the Lord Chancellor on the illegality of fees levied on claimants seeking justice in the employment tribunal was a tour de force on the rule of law.  Magna Carta gets a couple of mentions as do great architects of the common law Coke, and Blackstone.  Anyone with the slightest interest in our constitution or matters pertaining to access to justice ought to read it.

In fact, it contains principles which you would hope no right-thinking observer, participant or commentator in our public realm could dispute.  You’d be wrong.

Another article I came across last week really jarred with me.  The Economist had taken it upon themselves to report on an alleged fraud involving British tourists suing for food poisoning suffered in all-inclusive hotels: a subtly-titled piece, “Holiday Cons… “Puke for payout”, the scam making holiday firms sick”  . It cites as its evidence for this assertion the fact that such claims are up by 500%.  It provides no evidence of fraudulent claims (even though legal judgments are perhaps the best documentary trail one can imagine), but is happy to assert that “many of the “crash-for-cash” fraudsters who used to run whiplash scams have taken to falling ill on holiday, a much easier hoax to execute“.

It refuses to countenance the possibility that these may be bona fide claims.  And that the legal services market (the Economist loves markets?) has responded to the opportunity to provide these claimants with a route of recourse.  Legal services that will enable them to pursue a claim, in which evidence will be provided and tested prior to judgment or settlement being obtained.   Thus, furthering another of the Economist key tenets, and one of its few ascribed roles for the State: the Rule of Law.

Let’s be honest, the Economist’s view here is based on some elitist world view whereby anyone seeking “compo” for a personal injury or the like is demonised as fraudster/scrounger or worse.

And it was this type of world view and the coverage it propagated that led to the introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees in the first place.  Typified by the CBI, whose line is so often accepted at face-value, not least by the right wing press.  This Telegraph article from 2011 titled “Employment Tribunals are legalised extortion” , based on another flimsy evidence base is a case in point.  Thankfully, this has now been summarily debunked by the Supreme Court, let’s hope our nation’s journalists take note.



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