The widow of a Ratton school teacher who died from exposure to asbestos during his career has won an out of court settlement from the education authority over his illness.
Clive Beck, who was head of history at the Park Avenue school between 1972 and 1998, died aged 71 in April 2009, around 18 months after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the incurable cancer of the lining of the lung.
The asbestos is believed to have been in shelves in a cupboard which Mr Beck, also known as Neville, used regularly to store books and equipment.
His widow Sue, 70, launched a legal bid against East Sussex County Council over concerns that more could and should have been done to protect Mr Beck from inhaling asbestos fibres at the school during his career. And this week Mrs Beck spoke of her relief after securing justice from the council over her late husband’s illness.
“No amount of money will ever bring Clive back,” said Mrs Beck, who was married for 28 years. “He wasn’t here to walk our daughter up the aisle when she got married and he would have so enjoyed being a grandfather to our granddaughter. But the fact is the council should have done more to protect him and it didn’t.”
“Losing Clive to mesothelioma was devastating and my family and I have been determined to get the answers we feel we deserve over his death. To see the impact that the illness had on him was unbearable and it is difficult to take when nowadays the risks of being exposed to asbestos are so well known.
“It has been a difficult few years but we are relieved this legal battle is now over. Nothing will ever bring Clive back but we felt it was important to get justice over everything he has faced.”
National law firm’s Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Asbestos-Related Disease team helped Mrs Beck and her family receive the undisclosed out-of-court settlement over the failures which led her husband to be exposed to the deadly material.
Together, Mrs Beck and Irwin Mitchell are reiterating demands for more to be done to rid public buildings of dangerous asbestos.
Sarah Wolf, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office who represented Mrs Beck in her search for answers, said, “Despite asbestos being so commonly associated with industrial environments, this tragic case is one of a growing number we are seeing in relation to the presence of asbestos in public buildings such as offices, hospitals and schools.
“Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Clive’s story is that he was exposed to asbestos while doing a job he loved at a school where he worked tirelessly for more than a quarter of a decade.”
One of the central issues in the case related to whether the shelves in a cupboard which Mr Beck regularly used to store books and equipment were made from asbestos material.
Former colleagues were able to describe them and stated they were removed during an asbestos removal project at the school in the 1980s.
Sarah Wolf said, “If any comfort can be gained from this terrible case, it is that Sue and her family have been able to gain some financial security following the death of their loved one, which is only fair when he was exposed to a deadly material while simply doing his job.
“The danger of asbestos in schools also remains very much a live topic in the public domain and we were pleased when it was the subject of an Education Select Committee hearing earlier this year.
“It is understood that asbestos is present in 75 per cent of the country’s schools and we have long called for comprehensive action to be taken to improve the management and inspection process in relation to the material and ensure its removal where necessary. The risks of exposure are simply too great to be ignored.”
There is an interview with Mrs Beck on the Eastbourne Herald website at www.eastbourneherald.co.uk