west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Wronged Maesybont couple are refused insurance claim

“We are sorry to inform you that liability is denied,” said the letter from solicitors Weightmans.

There is to be no recompense from Carmarthenshire County Council for Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts of Maesybont, despite 13 years during which the council failed to act against unlawful activities on the next door property, owned by scrap metal dealer Andrew Thomas.

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Trisha Breckman — persecuted for whistleblowing

Dyfed-Powys Police admitted they had been in the wrong when arresting Trisha Breckman at the request of Andrew Thomas and his late wife Karen. In 2010 Planning Inspector Clive Cochrane found that Mr Thomas was violating planning regulations, and in 2012 the Public Services Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, concluded that the council was guilty of maladministration.

But the county council has employed specialist lawyers Weightmans to fight an insurance claim made by Mrs Breckman and Mr Roberts. Denial of liability, in a letter received by Trisha Breckman on Wednesday October 26, is because “the law of England and Wales does not allow an individual to recover compensation from a public body where the statutory duty or power involved did not itself confer a private law cause of action for a failure to exercise it”.

This seems to show that compensation may be payable only if an authority has a legal duty to act in cases of broken regulations, and not merely a power to act.

Weightmans also say that “the law states that damages in negligence for economic loss are not recoverable when unaccompanied by physical property damage or personal injury”, and also “we believe that your claims are statute barred. The law says that any claims for loss (other than personal injuries) must be brought within six years of the actions causing any loss. The actions which you complain about took place more than six years ago.”

The letter warns against any further action, with the words “Should you commence proceedings, we will ask the court to strike them out immediately.”

So the only avenue which Mrs Breckman and Mr Roberts thought was open to them, to seek compensation for being unable to launch and run their proposed cattery business because of harassment and intimidation from the people next door, now has locked gates across it – just like the lane to their cottage when Mr and Mrs Thomas put gates across that.

Perhaps if Trisha Breckman and Eddie Roberts had sold their cottage, Pantycastell Fach, as soon as they realised they were living next to an industrial site, not a farm, and had been less than truthful about the reason for a sale so soon after moving in, they would not now be in financial hardship.

Instead, they became whistleblowers, but whistled into an Arctic wind which has now frozen them solid.

Absence of justice for whistleblowers, who highlight wrongdoing and cover-ups, is an important national issue. Surely they deserve our gratitude and support, not kicks in the teeth.

PDR

A version of this article appeared in the Carmarthenshire Herald, October 28 2016

More on this case here, here and here

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