Diane Abbott criticises ‘ambulance chasing’ lawyers amid Grenfell tragedy
She said her office had received numerous complaints about the behaviour of some law firms.
Diane Abbott has hit out at “ambulance chasing” lawyers over allegations survivors of the Grenfell Tower blaze are being hounded about legal representation.
In an email sent to legal associations and seen by the Press Association, the shadow home secretary claimed her office had received numerous complaints about the behaviour of some law firms.
She said they had reported feeling “intimidated” into signing up for specific representation “on the premise that success depends on them all (a group of survivors) instructing one legal professional and/or firm”.
Many of those touched by the tragedy are in the process of preparing legal teams for the forthcoming public inquiry into the deadly fire.
Earlier this month, law firm Leigh Day suspended two paralegals after a poster was put up offering legal support to those affected, with an email address different from their work contact details.
But the Labour MP claimed such episodes had since continued, and copied organisations working with residents into her email in the hopes any others who have felt pressurised come forward.
Statement from Leigh Day in relation to the allegations in The Times today regarding the Grenfell Tragedy pic.twitter.com/l4EK3XaHG2— Leigh Day (@LeighDay_Law) July 8, 2017
She wrote in the email, addressed primarily to the Law Society and Bar Council, that she did not wish to make accusations, but said: “Whilst at this stage it is not clear on which matters these individuals have been advised that they need legal representation, it is evident that legal representation will be required at some point and to this end, it is entirely for those affected by this tragedy to instruct the legal professional of their choice without being coerced into instructing firms who are clearly misleading people whilst they are extremely vulnerable.
“I am sure that we all agree that this type of behaviour ‘ambulance chasing’ is disgraceful and should not be tolerated in any circumstance.
“We are aware that two paralegals have been suspended following such allegations and I had initially believed that this was the end of the matter, however complaints have persisted and I offered to send this letter in an attempt to ensure that those affected by this have support and a voice where their concerns are raised at the highest level.”
Her intervention came as tensions continued to run high over the shape of the independent probe.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick, the retired Court of Appeal judge leading the process, was told repeatedly during a heated public consultation meeting on Tuesday that he lacked the confidence of the community.
Survivors and residents applauded as one member of the public told Sir Martin he did not think he would do them justice in the public investigation.
The retired judge invited contributions from those affected by the deadly blaze as he hosted a second consultation meeting to give residents their say on what they want the investigation to cover.
But he faced calls to resign as those in the room informed his panel that he was not representative of the Grenfell community. One of the first people to speak said: “I don’t think you are going to do us justice. I’m just watching you here. We need someone who’s real.”
Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Wednesday that a new taskforce had been appointed to support Kensington and Chelsea Council as it managed its long-term response to the disaster.
With members including Javed Khan, chief executive of the charity Barnardo’s, and Jane Scott, the leader of Wiltshire Council, it will aim to also listen to “the views of the local community”.