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Law firm must pay back pounds 3,525 to sick miner; Cash deducted from compensation.

Byline: BY ROB MERRICK Political Correspondent

A LEADING Liverpool law firm was branded 'sickening and cruel' by an MP after being forced to pay back pounds 3,525 it wrongly deducted from a sick miner's compensation award.

The Law Society ruled there was a 'serious failure' in the service provided by Silverbeck Rymer to a former pitman from County Durham, who suffers from lung damage.

The firm of solicitors, which employs 200 people at its offices in Brunswick Street, charged Richard Jobes pounds 3,525 to cover the costs incurred by a separate claims handling firm.

Yet it knew those costs would be covered by the Department of Trade and Industry, under its multi-billion compensation scheme for exminers. The Law Society's adjudicator, David Honeybone, said: 'This is a serious failure in service and gave a misleading account of the situation.

'The impression was given that the risks involved were similar to any new litigation whereas, in reality, claims such as Mr Jobes were being dealt with at no risk of incurring the other side's costs.'

Mr Honeybone awarded Mr Jobes pounds 3,525 in compensation, the amount originally paid in fees, plus pounds 250 for 'upset, annoyance and inconvenience'.

The decision was revealed during a Commons debate led by Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, who has led a campaign against what he calls such 'sickening and cruel practices'.

Gavin Davies, marketing manager of Silverbeck Rymer, said it regretted any 'further distress' caused to Mr Jobes, but said the firm planned to appeal.

He added: 'We have built our reputation on the very highest levels of professionalism, quality and client service. We are disappointed in the Law Society's ruling.'

The Government announced this week it planned new laws to enforce regulation of claims handling firms.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, said: 'The time has come to take clear and firm action

CAPTION(S):

Lord Falconer - action; Silverbeck Rymer's motif
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 24, 2005
Words:320
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