CAMPAIGNS: Legal Aid - Fairwin helps legal claim of bomb victim

Client: Belmont and Hodgson Solicitors

Client: Belmont and Hodgson Solicitors

PR Team: Fairwin PR

Campaign: The start of legal action by a victim of the bombing of London's Admiral Duncan pub against brewer Scottish and Newcastle

Timescale: August

Budget: Undisclosed

Legal firm Belmont and Hodgson was appointed as solicitor to Gerald Wheatley, one of 70 victims injured by the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999.

Wheatley suffered severe injuries, including burns and broken ribs and he today suffers from deafness and psychological trauma. He was granted legal aid to investigate whether he could seek damages from Scottish and Newcastle, following reports the brewer had been warned by the Metropolitan Police to be on its guard against attack, and to take precautions.

Wheatley agreed to take part in the media campaign to highlight his case and the work undertaken by the solicitor on his behalf.



Objectives

To gain maximum 'positive' publicity for the success in achieving legal aid for Wheatley, while maintaining a high profile for the solicitor.

It was also imperative that the wording of any campaign was carefully scrutinised and free of any defamatory or prejudicial material in advance of legal proceedings.



Strategy and Plan

Fairwin drafted an initial press backgrounder which was cleared by lawyers. Managing director Nicholas Coppack lead a team of five on what was, essentially, a one-day campaign to target broadcast outlets, with subsequent follow-ups.

It was agreed that Coppack, as a PR broadcast specialist, would negotiate with media outlets.

BBC Breakfast News and all BBC radio stations were given the story. Coppack worked closely with the BBC's then legal affairs correspondent, Joshua Rosenburg, who produced a story about Wheatley's winning of legal aid to investigate possible action against Scottish and Newcastle.

The story included an exclusive interview with Wheatley and with lawyer Andrew Belmont.

National newspaper press releases were issued with embargoes for the day before release of the broadcast feature.

Following the initial BBC broadcasts, the story was highlighted to all the other TV news networks, including interviews with Wheatley and Belmont.



Measurement and Evaluation

The campaign became a major news item on the day of the campaign launch.

As well as BBC Breakfast News and all the national BBC radio stations carrying the story, it gained a high profile on Channel 4 News, Sky News, BBC South East TV news and other London television news networks.

Most newspapers, news agencies and news-led web sites carried the story, including the Independent, Evening Standard, PA, FT.com, the Guardian web site, BBC Online, the Pink Paper and the Gay Times.

There was high level of television coverage because stations had free access to the victim and his lawyers, and could back up developments with archive film of the bombing.

Journalists benefited from the law firm's experience of the case and human rights to produce their stories free of defamatory material and avoid litigation themselves.



Results

The PR campaign has further endorsed the ongoing human rights PR campaign undertaken by Fairwin for the law firm.

Belmont and Hodgson's standing as a major player in this field has been boosted by publicity about its win of legal aid for further investigations into Wheatley's right to seek legal action.





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