Legal Reporting… Leave it to the Lawyers
Today’s article is somewhat of a cross breed between an informative article and a rant. Over the last few months I have been reading more and more mainstream news reports of legal cases and in particular Employment Tribunal decisions. As time has gone on I have become more and more astonished with the poor quality of these reports. I regularly read articles in the Daily Mail and Guardian to name but two sources and am always surprised how woefully incorrect their reporting of a case is.
The case in question which had led me to prepare this article is the Guardian’s coverage of the recent story to hit the news regarding Cardiologist Raj Mattu and his successful Tribunal claim against the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust. If you are interested a link to the actual article itself is http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/17/legal-victory-heart-doctor-whistleblower-hospital-safety-fears
The article discusses the recent victory of Dr Mattu in his claim again the NHS Trust. In reading the article I came across the following alleged quotation from Dr Mattu’s solicitor:
“The Tribunal’s findings – that Dr Mattu was a whistleblower and was unfairly dismissed – completely vindicate him. Dr Mattu was a fantastic cardiologist and it was tragic that his pursuit of safety and the highest standards in care led to him being vilified bullied and harassed out of a job he loved”.
However later in the article they also include a quote purporting to be from a member of the Trust which states:
“We are pleased that they have firmly rejected his primary claim that his dismissal in 2010 was in any way linked to whistleblowing about patient care”.
So which one is it? At one point his solicitor is stating that he has won his whistleblowing claim (for those not aware a whistleblowing claim is a substantial claim in comparison to a basic unfair dismissal claim as whistleblowing claims have no cap for compensation whereas an unfair dismissal claim is now capped by a total compensatory award of one year’s net salary) and then the Respondent themselves are contradicting this. I actually had to do some further research myself and found out that whilst Dr Mattu did in fact win his unfair dismissal claim the Tribunal could not find that his dismissal was directly linked to the whistleblowing disclosures he had made some of which were made as long as nine years before his dismissal in 2010. Therefore I’m slightly confused as to why his solicitor would make the comments he did and further why they would be included in the article? Perhaps this is a further error and a misquotation.
Over recent months I have read more and more articles that have been to put it simply incorrect. If this was a one-off mistake I could accept this as mistakes are always going to happen. However in my own humble opinion as an experienced Employment Lawyer sustained articles that include factually incorrect information do begin to alter the public’s perception towards certain legal claims. As such my view more recently has been that perhaps all mainstream media outlets would be best to employ someone with a legal knowledge to consider the articles before they go to print or better still perhaps write the articles themselves. To that end all these organisations need to do is ask a Lawyer and we would be happy to oblige…..
Author: Ian Abel
Employment Law Solicitor at Michael Lewin Solicitors Limited