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In the Dock: Legal Training
  • Feb 20, 2020
  • Latest News

At Disabled Living, we see the difference that life changing injuries can make to an individual’s life. We also see the wider impact on those involved in working with, caring for and supporting those affected. Many of those who access our services are disabled from birth, others suffer injuries or illnesses which leave them disabled. These life changing events can happen at any time, but certain jobs carry a high risk of either hazards, or of our decisions and actions potentially injuring someone we work with.  

This means that certain career paths and jobs have a risk of those employees ending up as part of a legal case. From healthcare workers to construction workers, you could be asked to give evidence in a civil investigation or at an inquest at any time throughout your working life.  

We know that it is daunting for people outside of the legal profession to be involved in a real-life case. However, it is something that will happen to many of us during our careers. We want to improve the safety of workers, patients and service users, whilst also offering guidance to those who work with them on what it would be like to be involved in a real-life legal case.  

This is why we created “In the Dock” legal training, in association with Clarke Willmott Solicitors. We have successfully trained people from all different backgrounds, by creating an interactive experience of working on real life cases.   

We run our popular In the Dock training days for health and social care workers with expert witness, Elizabeth Hallows, and clinical negligence specialist solicitor, Sarah Jones, from Clarke Willmott. These training days often sell out. They are attended by a variety of delegates and the feedback has been incredible. Not only this, but we have all had a lot of fun doing it.

At Disabled Living, we often see and help people who have had accidents at work. Hence, we have courses that help not only healthcare professionals, but also people in other industries such as construction and road building who may be exposed to certain hazards. The aim of the course is to keep people safe and prevent people from having injuries at work.

What does In the Dock training involve?
The day starts with a session from a solicitor who explains the legal framework in which a case could occur, who would be involved and how it is relevant to you. Then the process of making a claim outside of court and what would happen if the case ever got to court. Delegates will be asked to stand up in the dock and take part in a real-life case which has been anonymised. They are given a chance to work through the relevant documents and to prepare for court in teams. The case will take place with everyone involved. Afterwards, they will be asked to give their opinion on who won the claim and to see if their views fit with the judge’s findings. There is then further opportunity to ask questions to the panel, which opens a lively discussion of shared experiences and goals to take away for improvement.
 
What will be covered on the day?
The day will always use real life cases to give attendees the most relevant hands-on experience. Whatever the topic, it will include an overview on how the law works - whether it is focused on health and safety at work or negligence. We also offer training from an expert witness who will guide health and social care workers through record management and industry expectations – crucial evidence. This includes some interactive questioning. There is then an opportunity to work in groups to prepare for a real court case.  

Who will benefit?
The health and social care / negligence course has been enjoyed by everyone in Allied Health Professions (Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists etc.) care workers, social workers, NHS managers, charity workers and anyone considering a career as an expert witness. It will clearly help anyone who is responsible for patient record keeping, or anyone who could be called to give evidence in a court case.  

The health and safety course will help workers stick to policies for their own safety and liability. Ultimately, this will help to increase safety in the workplace. The session will highlight real life cases to show what could happen if laws and policies are not adhered to.

Having spoken to the participants, one delegate gave us the following feedback “Excellent training, increased my knowledge greatly and I feel more confident about going to course next month.” – Suzanne, Adult Services Manager at Heathfields Resource Centre.

Why do Disabled Living deliver this training?
We want to deliver training to a diverse range of people in order to help prevention of injuries and issues in which people are faced with problems surrounding their independence.

In the Dock training case study – Road surface workers
In January 2020 we saw 60 men In the Dock facing a grilling by solicitor Phil Edwards, from Clarke Willmott, about their opinions on the legal cases presented before them. It became apparent that in defending their decisions, opinions are very diverse when it comes to apportioning blame in health and safety issues. Most were able to articulate and justify their decision on who should win the claim in court. However, there were a few surprises…

Why did the road surface workers end up In the Dock?
We were contacted by Abi the SHEQ coordinator at Phoenix Surfacing who had heard about the established ‘In the Dock’ legal sessions delivered by Disabled Living.
After discussing some of the health and safety issues faced in the construction and road building industry, we decided that a bespoke and condensed version of the legal session would be a unique and innovative way to highlight the need for adhering to policies to the busy road workers who don’t want to sit in a conventional training session.

What happened on the day?
After a great breakfast, the men from Phoenix were introduced to Disabled Living and to Phil Edwards, a highly regarded solicitor from Clarke Willmott who specialises in dealing with life changing and complex injury cases.

Topics of Discussion
• Accidents at work: Why do they happen? Who is to blame? What does the civil law say? When can people make a claim?

• Why should we worry? What are the potential implications, financial and physical? The room was very quiet when the subject of serious injury and death were broached.

• Legal consequences: liability, negligence.

Then came the debates!
This is when the room became a lot noisier.
From fights at the works Christmas party, to high platform level electrocutions, every man in the room had their own opinion of who was to blame.

Are the companies to blame or the individual? Phil coaxed each man In the Dock to say why he had reached the decision he had about the incidents.

A few of the men managed to articulately defend their decision about the outcome of the case. They were able to state correctly who was to blame and whether a claim could be made.

Others managed to become undone by the questioning and ended up tripping themselves up.
There were a few surprises when Phil stated what the result of the case was in the end. Sometimes the liability lies in unexpected places!

What else could we teach these guys?
Getting people to stand up and be interrogated In the Dock certainly was a great way to engage men who know all about health and safety. It was effective in highlighting what could happen to them and their co-workers if things go wrong, even when simple policies are ignored.
What surprised the organisers of the event was the enthusiastic engagement within the room. During coffee breaks, the conversation continued as to what should have happened and who had done what during the cases.

The workers at Phoenix Road Surfacing were asked if they had heard and taken on board anything that would affect the way they work and increase their safety.

The feedback was a resounding yes. Whether it was something significant or small that needed to change, the important thing was that by attending this interactive session, the changes will be made.
How will attending In the Dock make a difference?

If only one small thing changes as a result of attending this session (e.g. through saving someone from a serious injury), we have made a difference.

Highlighting best practice and the consequences that could occur if health and safety procedures are not followed is an effective way of getting the message across. Our In the Dock training manages to do this in an interesting and interactive way.

The feedback from the training so far has been outstanding. It seems to be that having such an interactive way of training is the perfect way to get people thinking, help them build confidence and grow their understanding of the topics at hand. This is more likely to lead to them applying what they learnt in practice. One thing is for sure – there is no opportunity to sit back and switch off at our training days!

For more information and to sign up to one of our In the Dock training sessions, visit: https://www.disabledliving.co.uk/training/our-workshops/in-the-dock-with-an-expert-witness/

Written by Deborah Bell, Enablement Manager at Disabled Living and Sarah Jones, Senior Associate at Clarke Willmott LLP and Trustee at Disabled Living