Chronicle gets credit for legal fees exposé

Chronicle: at the forefront of getting justice for former miners

The Newcastle Evening Chronicle has been praised in Parliament for publicising a controversy involving lawyers taking a cut of miners’ personal injury compensation payments.

The newspaper’s coverage has helped prompt the Law Society to investigate Newcastle solicitors Mark Gilbert Morse.

The North East daily began covering the issue three months ago when it was raised in the House of Commons by local MP Kevan Jones.

Speaking during a more recent Commons debate, trade and industry minister Nigel Griffiths said: “I congratulate the Chronicle on its tough campaign, along with Kevan Jones, which has now started to get results.

There was no justification for solicitors charging their fees and the Chronicle has been at the forefront of getting justice for former miners and their families.”

According to Jones, solicitors have been “deducting up to 25 per cent of victims’ compensation in charges, not content with the fees in excess of £10m they had received from the Department of Trade”.

He said many “have had compensation rightfully theirs plundered by those in whom they had put their trust to represent their best interests”.

Evening Chronicle editor John Robertson said: “This is something we have actively pursued with regular stories. We’ve highlighted cases and challenged solicitors. We’ve had a big response from readers. Every time we do a story we seem to unearth another case.”

He said local solicitor John Morse, from Mark Gilbert Morse, had made a pledge in the Chronicle to pay back any money wrongly taken by his firm.

Robertson said: “We felt it was wrong that firms had taken a percentage of compensation on top of the fees they were getting from the Government. We’ve called it double charging. It’s pleasing to see that the Government has now told them to speed up paying back the cash.”

Mark Gilbert Morse said it followed the Law Society Model Agreement for all its damages claims. According to the firm, the contentious deductions from claims were made prior to April 2000 when the rules governing Conditional Fee Agreements changed.

In last week’s issue, our top 20 regional newspapers table incorrectly referred to the Evening Chronicle as The Journal.

By Dominic Ponsford

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