Battling ex-cokework employees from South Tyneside will have their fight for justice heard in court.
A date has been set for the High Court to review the progress of about 350 former coke oven works illness claims against British Steel and British Coal.
This will include claims lodged by former workers at Monkton Cokeworks in Hebburn, which closed in 1992, after a long and high-profile people’s protest against the works, which had operated since 1936.
Led by Hebburn-based former county councillor Jennie Shearan, protesters living near the plant claimed it had sparked serious medical issues among the local population, including respiratory problems.
The new legal fight involves former coke oven workers, who claim they have been left with cancers and respiratory diseases because of exposure to harmful dust and fumes, several decades ago.
Law firms Irwin Mitchell and Hugh James are working jointly on two large group litigation claims against British Steel and British Coal. A spokesman for Irwin Mitchell confirmed that ex-workers from the former Monkton Cokeworks plant are among the 350 people fighting for justice.
Formal legal action in the case was launched last October and the High Court has confirmed it will review the progress of the claims on October 16.
A landmark judgement against a Phurnacite plant in South Wales in the High Court in 2012 paved the way for the legal action in other regions, including the North East, Yorkshire, Humberside, Derbyshire and South Wales.
The majority of the affected workers were employed in a range of occupations at coke oven works, such as Monkton, between the 1940s and 1980s.
Some of these ex-employees now suffer from cancer, emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Lawyers for the former cokework employees allege British Steel Corporation and British Coal Corporation and their subsidiaries failed to correctly assess the risk of working in coke ovens, and failed to adequately protect workers from significant dust and fumes.
Roger Maddocks, a specialist workplace illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Hundreds of former coke oven workers are now suffering from terrible conditions, simply because of the work they carried out on a day-to-day basis.
“Employees have a basic right to be able to go to work and return home safely at the end of the day.”
In August 2012, former coke oven workers suffering from lung cancer became entitled to industrial injuries disablement benefit, subject to meeting certain employment-related criteria.
Source – Shields Gazette, 08 Aug 2014
A pro-cannabis rally was held in Redcar to “start a sensible debate” on legalising the Class B drug.
It was held by Teesside Cannabis Club at Redcar Rugby Union Football Club’s fields on Green Lane on Saturday afternoon.
John Holiday, 30, from Middlesbrough, started the club as his interest in the medicinal qualities of the drug grew.
“We have had five get-togethers in the North-east but not on this level,” said John, who registered the group six months ago.
“We have got three main areas: medicinal, recreational and industrial.
“This rally gives people a hands on approach, a chance to get involved with other like-minded people.
“Everything happens down south so this is to give people something to get behind in the North-east.
“We got permission from the rugby club and we’ve had meetings with the police.”
John began using cannabis for medicinal reasons several years ago when he suffered with Crohn’s Disease style symptoms which saw him hospitalised having lost a lot of weight.
“I had negative experiences with prescribed medication – tramadol addiction, various side effects,” he said.
“I take cannabis in a capsule instead now, it’s coconut-infused cannabis oil. I do smoke it recreationally too.
“Five years ago my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had all the chemo and radiotherapy and had positive results in the beginning but the side effects of that was it killed off his immune system and he passed away last June.
“We didn’t get the chance to trial cannabis with him, it’s very hard to make the cannabis oil to treat cancer and it’s not something you can do legally in the UK.”
Colin Richardson, 41, from Pallister Park, Middlesbrough, said: “I have been using cannabis since I was 11. You don’t hear of people using cannabis committing crimes. It’s different from other drugs.”
Rolfie Lokikush Larsen, 37, from Guisborough, said: “It’s just time to have a sensible conversation about this. We’re talking about a plant at the end of the day.
“It’s time people realised that stoners are responsible people who can hold down jobs and bring up kids. I am a single father of two children and work as a volunteer for Guisborough museum.
“Cannabis should be on the same level as alcohol and cigarettes. It should have the same restrictions.”
Cleveland Police checked in on the peaceful rally throughout the event.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 03 Aug 2014