North East lawyer: Government must press on with schools asbestos report

A North East lawyer has urged the Government not to allow any more delays to a planned report on asbestos in schools.

News reports in March claimed that asbestos is still present in 86 per cent of UK school buildings, and that at least 20 people were now dying nationwide each year as a result of exposure to the substance in schools.

David Cameron was pressed on the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions on 11th March 2015, and he assured Parliament that the report would still be published.

However, a North East lawyer who specialises in cases involving asbestos exposure, said the report must not be allowed to be forgotten or overlooked amid the forthcoming General Election.

Philip Thompson, industrial illness specialist at Thomson & Co of Sunderland, recently settled a case involving asbestos exposure at Belmont School, Co Durham, in which a cleaner died of Mesothelioma years after she was exposed to asbestos there.

He said: “The Government continues to promise a review and report on the schools in which asbestos is still present. This absolutely cannot be allowed to fall by the wayside during the inevitable disruption that the General Election will cause.

“We have recently settled a claim on behalf of the husband of a North East woman who died as a result of exposure to asbestos in a school in the region. While cases of this kind will never be as widespread as those we saw from the shipyards in the region, they are certainly growing more frequent – and people will want reassurance that there is no ongoing danger from asbestos in schools.”

Thompson and Co Solicitors recently secured an admission of liability from Durham County Council in relation to the death of Laura Hamilton, who died of Asbestos-related cancer Mesothelioma in June 2011.

The admission brings to an end a three-year legal battle for her husband Alan Hamilton. Mr Hamilton turned to Philip Thompson in 2011 for help in investigating the case.

Mr Thompson’s research revealed that asbestos was not only present at Belmont Comprehensive School when Mrs Hamilton worked there during the 1980s, but that there was large amounts of brown asbestos which was damaged and therefore likely to give off deadly loose fibres.

It was not until Thompson and Co Solicitors issued court proceedings earlier in spring 2014 that the admission of liability came. The case has now been settled out of court.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Hamilton, Mr Thompson said: “We are delighted to have settled this claim. Our client has been determined to prove the extent of asbestos exposure that took place at the school at that time and we had extensive evidence to prove that exposure had taken place.

“Nothing will ever bring back Mrs Hamilton, but this decision will give Mr Hamilton some degree of closure.

“We are reaching the stage where instances of people who have worked in schools, or who have attended schools as pupils, are contracting asbestos related illnesses with increasing frequency, and the Government is rightly under increasing pressure to address the matter.”

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