Mary Law lost her 51 year old son, Roy Shipley, to Mesothelioma of the abdomen, an asbestos related disease in 2010.
Mr Shipley was exposed to deadly asbestos fibres during his work as an electrician in asbestos ridden factories. The deadly disease Mesothelioma is common amongst tradespeople working in industries with heavy asbestos exposure. There is on average a 9 month survival rate after diagnosis of the disease.
Since his death Mrs Law has battled for greater compensation for families of asbestos victims, getting involved heavily in charities and fundraising activities. She opened a charity shop in her home town and took part in a skydive raising $1500 for MacMillan cancer support. It was through her involvement with the charity Mesothelioma UK that she found out about a case in Italy.
Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny was accused and convicted of failing to ensure the safety of workers in asbestos cement plants run by his group Eternit in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Italy. He was found guilty of causing permanent health and environmental catastrophe. Exposure to asbestos led to more than 3000 employees dying, the biggest ever trial on asbestos related death and was ordered to pay millions of Euros in compensation to victims and their families.. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2012 after a 3 year trial; however a court in Rome has now ruled that he should not have been convicted of causing a health or environmental catastrophe as the verdict came more than 12 years after the crime. The crime was subject to a limitation law, giving a time scale within when action could be taken place, because of the length of time it took bringing the trial to head, and the length of the case the verdict came about after this allotted time meaning Mr Schmidheiny should not have been convicted.
Mrs Law joined many fellow protesters outside of the court with banners and placards promoting and raising awareness for their campaign, also planning to attend the court appeal of the hearing in Belgium.
Mrs Law works with UCATT, the construction trade union, fighting for greater compensation for families of victims. A 2013 ruling from the Supreme Court meant that victims, sufferers and dependants would be able to claim compensation and damages from a £350,000 pot over the next 10 years. This is also available to those who cannot trace their employers or those who have gone but or no longer exist so are unable to directly sue.
Mrs Law is quite rightfully angry about the lack of support received for family of victims and them little compensation they receive. As a duty holder it was his responsibility to take control of the asbestos and manage it suitably so as not to put employees under and health and safety risks.
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Published Feb 12, 2015