Blame culture costing billions

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The Independent Online
COMPENSATION CLAIMS are now costing Britain up to pounds 6.8bn a year in payouts and legal fees, according to a report published today. The threat of legal action is damaging human relations and preventing companies from taking risks or pursuing innovative ideas, the report by the right- wing think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies said.

It found the public sector alone is paying out pounds 1.8bn a year.

The report, Courting Mistrust, by Frank Furedi, said that up to 98 per cent of claims could be settled out of court. But the fear of legal action was encouraging organisations to drop anything potentially risky.

With more and more aspects of daily life being brought within a legal framework, relations based on trust were being undermined, Dr Furedi said. Meanwhile, the number of practising barristers and solicitors in England and Wales had doubled in the past 20 years.

Examples of what Dr Furedi condemned as the "institutionalisation of irresponsibility" included holidaymakers suing travel agents for getting food poisoning on holiday, young adults suing their schools for their poor performance and a soldier suing the Army for the stress of seeing his friend killed.

"Advocates of compensation culture always present complaining and blaming as the defiant acts of the active citizen," he said. "But too often today, blaming offers a popularly sanctioned excuse from tackling the consequences of one's action."

The assumption that someone else was always to blame for one's predicament was a "profoundly disturbing" view of how much power human beings had over their lives, painting them as "passive, pathetic creatures unable to make real choices".

He warned that reforms of the legal system risked aggravating the trend by making it easier to go to law. He called instead for a debate about how to tackle the issue.