Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Such is the fear of getting sued in our increasingly litigious society that local and national authorities are moving heaven and earth to try and make things safe to all by ever more oppressive legislation to the point where they force something which hasn't had an accident at all in its 30 years of operation to close down.
FOR more than 30 years children have played safely on Gordon Channer’s field without so much as a grazed knee.
It has proved a godsend for parents in keeping their youngsters away from a busy main road. Now the gates have been locked, however, after it was ruled that uneven ground at the back of the land poses a health and safety risk.
To make matters worse Mr Channer, 76, cannot level out the surface because his council refused him planning permission to do so.
“It is such nonsense,” he said. “In all the years children have been playing there I can’t think of one single accident. The land at the back end of the field is bumpier, not by much mind you and certainly not enough to cause serious harm to anyone.
“I can’t do anything about it anyway because the council won’t let me.”
First off we have the problem of what someone wants to do on their own land, if they were planning on building over it, I could see a potential problem requiring planning permission, but all that seems to be needed is for the land to be levelled, something Gordon Channer seemed willing to do in his own time and at his own expense.
Secondly by closing the field the council themselves have endangered the kids because they have nowhere else to go.
Now I'm a great believer that what someone chooses to do on their own land is their business, that strikes me as being a basic right, along with the right to take the consequences should whatever you do on your own land harm anyone else. Naturally this means a risk of eyesores sprouting up all over the place, but in general I think it should be a basic right.
In this case though, because the previous government made it easier to sue for basically frivolous injuries, the insurers have decided that everything should be as safe as possible so they don't lose money unnecessarily, it's what insurers do after all, reduce risk or play the odds.
What the council have done is told the owners they can't do anything on their land that the council doesn't like.
So as it stands the insurers lose money because the owner can't get insurance, the kids lose out because they have nowhere safe to play and the council lose out by looking like authoritarian dickheads (though they probably don't care as they tend to be authoritarian dickheads anyway)
All this came from a change in the law that allowed no win, no fee compensation cases to go ahead, an unintended consequence? Well perhaps though it should be remembered that the PM's wife at the time was a lawyer. Something that should have increased our freedom has eventually lost the kids in Penwith the freedom to play safely.
This is why we need fewer but better laws, along with the recognition on both sides that a little risk is not such a bad thing.
That and somehow getting the legal system to apply common sense.

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