We ask our Scottish Regional Co-ordinator some questions so we can say we are ‘Getting to know you – Brian Castle’.
Brian is head of Digby Brown‘s General Personal Injury Litigation (GPIL) department and has been with Digby Brown since 1996. He became a partner in 2002.
Why MASS (i.e. Committee member)?
My appointment to Scottish Regional Co-ordinator in early 2016 came about by accident rather than design when my predecessor had to resign when taking up another post. I have really enjoyed my time since, and consider it a privilege to have made a number of representations on behalf of MASS Scotland to Government reviews, including giving oral evidence to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament. We have a committed and driven bunch of Scottish member firms in MASS who are passionate about preserving access to justice and the interests of the injured road user.
Why the Law?
I wasn’t particularly focussed on what I wanted to do after school and I only selected law as a University option on the advice of my girlfriend at the time who had held a longstanding desire to be a lawyer, and had carefully chosen her subjects accordingly. I got the exam grades and alas she did not – needless to say the relationship didn’t survive long afterwards! She ended up being an accountant….
I was the first family member to make it to University and can remember how proud my mum was when I told her I’d been accepted.
Best win in Court/most important win to date
I’m lucky enough to have had a number of case successes in my career and the cases giving the most personal satisfaction are the ones where the defender agent has previously sent a detailed letter (often in a patronising tone) telling you how your case is devoid of merit and could not possibly succeed, usually accompanied with a derisory offer or an invitation to discontinue. I’ve had a handful of cases reported on, including most recently an ongoing case which went all the way to the Supreme Court and clarified the law on time bar for minors for Convention cases (Warner –v- Scapa Flow Charters). You mustn’t ever forget that there is a client behind every case and so a “win” is always significant to them of course.
Thoughts on the implications of the Civil Liability Act
I’ve spent several years head scratching in bewilderment at the seemingly continual reforms in personal injury practice in England and Wales, and the CLA is up there with the most damaging. One of the drivers frequently mentioned at the outset was the desire to reduce fraud and it seems to have been lost on the legislators that the vast majority of lawyers operating in the PI market were/are decent and scrupulous and were an effective means of weeding out fraudulent cases early. It seems to me that the removal of lawyers from the process can only increase the levels of fraudulent claims. The tariff system as currently proposed is nothing short of a joke – there is simply no basis for the tariffs mooted beyond a desire to save insurers money.
What 3 items would you take to a desert island?
On the assumption I have to leave my family behind, the three making the final cut would be my blue whippet Lola, a bottle of Glenrothes 1971 single malt whisky and my tattered Polo hoodie that I refuse to chuck as it’s so comfortable & warm
What’s your claim to fame?
I moved to Glasgow in the mid 1990’s to take up my legal traineeship and bought a newbuild flat with 2 friends in the Gorbals, a rough area of the city that was being redeveloped. The Sunday Times did a two page feature on my buying a flat there – was chuffed at the prospect until the article was printed and described me and others as “Yuppie” purchasers much to my embarrassment and ridicule. BBC then got involved and did filming for a documentary which was never aired. Even then, I clearly didn’t have the face for TV…
What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100 years?
Where’s that hoodie – I’m cold!
I love watching horse racing and seem to have developed a belief that any horse of mine running cannot win unless I am wearing their colours on me. Not ideal when they are purple and lime green.
Best ever holiday or place you have visited?
Not exotic but I love Italy and also (closer to home) Ireland.
Pretty changeable and varied. Listening a lot of the The Weeknd just now. Last band I saw live was London Grammar. For a giggle during lockdown, Sophie Ellis Bextor’s Instagram is fun.
I don’t read nearly as often as I should for pleasure/relaxation. I’m mildly embarrassed to reveal that I now read the novels (on holiday) my wife tells me I must! Left to my own devices, I would choose to read autobiographies as real life and the drivers that get people to success fascinate me.
Best TV boxset or movie?
Don’t tend to have much time for TV but am enjoying the current series Gangs of London at the minute.
Whisky – can’t beat a decent malt.
Anyone seeing me (and my expanding waistline) during lockdown will gather I like most types of food!
What is the first thing you like to do with your free time?
As mentioned above, my big interest outside of law is horse racing (jumps not flat). Thankfully, my wife shares my passion for horses.
What annoys you?
It’s irritating when the media reports on a “win” or windfall settlement in headlines and in the context of personal injury damages which of course are merely restoring a person to their pre-accident position as far as money can.
Thoughts on Brexit?
I wasn’t for it and don’t see we will be any better as a nation for coming out of the European Union. In a Scottish context, I also fear it will be the catalyst for another divisive independence referendum vote in the near future – the last thing Scotland needs in my opinion.
This article first appeared in MASS Insight Magazine, Spring 2020.