A solicitor who admitted professional misconduct over his firm’s handling of miners’ compensation claims has stood down as a Labour candidate.
Jerry Hague was parachuted in to stand as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bolsover, a former mining constituency held by former miner and Labour MP Dennis Skinner for 49 years until the catastrophic loss in 2019 due to Starmer’s second referendum policy.
Hague was a solicitor who worked as a personal injury specialist on behalf of individuals and trade unions. But it came to light in a report by The Times on Monday that he had been fined £5,000 in 2010 after appearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The allegation, the newspaper reported, related to deductions from compensation awarded to sick miners.
The Disciplinary Tribunal charges came after the biggest misconduct investigation into the legal profession.
A total of 760,000 claims were made. Tens of thousands of ex-miners were awarded less than £1,000 each and 23,000 died before receiving any money, but solicitors were paid £1.2 billion from the public purse.
Among the biggest earners were law firms with close ties to mining unions. Deals were agreed under which unions pointed potential claimants towards favoured solicitors. In return, law firms sliced money from compensation awards and handed it to the unions.
In many cases solicitors failed to inform clients that other law firms would have handled their claims without deducting money from their damages. Hague was the personal injury specialist at Graysons.
He and another partner met with the Derbyshire area National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in January 1998 and reached an agreement to be the chosen law firm. The disciplinary tribunal was told in August 2010 that from February 1998 Graysons recruited claimants at welfare centres and clubs.
Most of the claims were dealt with on the basis that the claimant was to enter into a funding agreement with the NUM, the tribunal was told. Under this agreement “the claimant agreed to pay NUM a fixed sum of money out of his final settlement”. This was “deducted from the settlement monies by the firm and paid to NUM”.
The scheme was designed to ensure that miners and their widows lost nothing from any damages and faced no liability if the claim failed. The government also paid solicitors’ costs for each successful claim and did not seek to recover its costs if the claim failed.
In most cases “the NUM was being paid for nothing”, the tribunal was told.
Graysons admitted breaching rules by failing to give its clients adequate advice about costs and the doubtful merits of the NUM “funding” agreement.
Several Labour MPs were highly critical of similar deals between law firms and mining unions. In 2005 Sir Kevin Barron, a former miner who was MP for Rother Valley, South Yorkshire, for 36 years until 2019, said the NUM agreements were “a scam”.
Hague was one of four Graysons partners accused of professional misconduct. They received fines ranging from £2,000 to £5,000 and were collectively ordered to pay costs of £27,500.
In total 67 firms were investigated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and partners from 23 firms were ordered to appear before the tribunal.
Following the Time’s revelations, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bolsover stood down…
On Monday evening Hague had stood down following a meeting with the Labour Party stating that ‘with sadness’ he would not run.
Hague’s Twitter account was closed and his Facebook page was made unavailable, with his official website also not working.
This came after the Times pointed out the irony in his apparent “record of . . . supporting mining communities” with a headline that read… “Labour selects miners scandal lawyer”
Jerry Hague – who was charged with professional misconduct by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in 2010 admitted professional misconduct after his firm deducted money from compensation awarded to sick miners.
It was just another scandal relating to the establishment ripping off the miners, either through ambulance chasers making money from deserved compensation schemes or successive governments dipping into the miners’ pension pot.
Questions are still being asked as to how the government allowed more than half the money paid out from the £6.9bn fund to go to law firms. “Were the government aware that this [compensation scheme] would lead to the purchase of new offices, classic cars and an executive jet, plus mansion-like houses for solicitors involved?
In 2010, Mr Hague was one of four Graysons solicitors to admit breaking conduct rules by failing to give clients adequate advice about costs and the “merits” of the NUM funding agreement.
The Labour Party is understood to have been unaware of Mr Hague’s misconduct case during the candidate selection process and spoke to him after the details came to light.
The party is understood to agree he cannot remain as the candidate.
However what is missing from that statement is why wasn’t this picked up, where was Labour’s due diligence in selecting parliamentary candidates?
It wasn’t too hard to find reference to Jerry Hague and his firm of solicitors mentioned in Hansard where Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty’s Government how many solicitors have been convicted of charges before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal arising from professional misconduct in the handling of cases under the British Coal respiratory disease litigation and British Coal vibration white finger litigation; what is the name of each solicitor and the trading name of his or her firm; and what was the outcome of each case, to include the sentence (if any) imposed.
Listed was: Graysons, 4-12 Paradise Square, Sheffield appearing in that list was Jerry Hague…
Peter Maxwell Clark, Belinda Jane Lancaster, John Peter Hatfield, Jeremy Peter Hague, Carl Alastair Goodwin.
This wasn’t Hague’s first rodeo, jerry Hague contested the seat of Sherwood in 2019 when he finished second behind Conservative Mark Spencer.
You do have to ask how much the Labour Party did know about Jerry Hague’s history of miners’ composition schemes.
During the 2019 election campaign Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health and social care secretary, and Jerry Hague, Labour candidate for the Sherwood constituency at the time prompted another composition scheme for miners.
We know Hague was a partner at Graysons, a Sheffield law firm, in 2010 which handled compensation claims against British Coal by former miners suffering from lung disease from breathing in coal dust and vibration white finger, a condition caused by working with vibrating machineries such as chain saws and drills. The schemes sound so similar to the ones proposed by Labour in 2019.
The plans aimed to address the issue of lung-related illnesses in those who worked in the pits by expanding lung MOTs in the county and setting up a specialist lung clinic in Nottinghamshire for ex-miners.
Miners have historically been more susceptible to illnesses such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to the coal dust they were exposed to entering their lungs.
These proposals were put forward by the shadow health and social care secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, while on his campaign trail where he spoke to former miners at Clipstone Social Club on November 27 2019.
Call me a sceptic but of course, this would require teams of solicitors to handle the compensation schemes.
Ironically following his selection at Bolsover, Hague had said the ‘next campaign now starts to win Bolsover back for Labour’. looks like Bolsover dodged one there…
If there is a lesson to be learnt it must be that Labour should select candidates from the local community, people with a relationship with the community, where the community know them, and they know and understand the wants and needs of that community. Oh wait! isn’t that another broken Labour promise…