Page last updated at 07:03 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 08:03 UK

Been injured by a Euro poll poster?

By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News

Bairbre de Brun (Sinn Fein), Diane Dodds  (DUP), Alban Maginness (SDLP) and Jim Nicholson (UUP)
There are seven candidates running for election to the European Parliament in NI

Essential devices of the democracy we cherish or an eyesore you could happily live without?

Whatever you think of them, you can hardly move at the minute without a European election candidate smiling down on you from a poster.

But who is responsible if one of these ubiquitous objects comes down from on high and causes you to have a car crash or injures you in some way?

"Somebody confronted with this sort of scenario should adopt a scatter-gun approach, in other words sue everyone and anyone concerned with the erection of the poster," said Martin Hart of Hart & Co Solicitors in Belfast.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith required stitches to his face after being hit by a poster

"This would include the actual candidate, their party and the person or company who put it up."

However, the injured party and the person putting up the poster aren't always different legal entities as Councillor Robert Smith can attest to.

The father-of-five required stitches to his face after he was injured while helping put up posters of his party's candidate, Diane Dodds.

However, putting party loyalties before a possible claim, Mr Smith has no plans to sue Mrs Dodds or the DUP.

According to Eileen Ewing of Thompson Crooks Solicitors, election posters should be "secured to take account of events that could occur within reason".

Stephen Agnew (Green) and Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice)
There are three seats up for grabs in Northern Ireland

Subsequently, the Shankill Road-based lawyer said any claim by an injured party should "consider whether the poster had been sufficiently secured to prevent it from being blown down in bad weather."

But if you are "assaulted" by a European election poster, and wish to take legal action, what is the basis of your claim?

"The case of action would be personal injury, loss and damage," continued Martin Hart.

"Let's say worst case scenario, somebody is hit on the head by a poster and they crack their skull - they'd obviously sue for this or whatever injury they've suffered.

"There may also be loss of earnings to be considered if they've had to take off work for any length of time."

Ian Parsley (Alliance)
About 375 million European citizens are eligible to vote on 4 June

While the chances of being injured by an election poster as you go about you day-to-day business are minuscule, more predictable is the annual debate about when they should come down.

"Prior to any election Planning Service writes to all political parties reminding them of their statutory obligations for displaying election posters including positioning, road safety issues and subsequent removal within 14 days of the poll closing," said a Department of the Environment spokesman.

The European Parliament elections on 4 June will be the biggest trans-national election in history.

About 375 million European citizens in 27 countries are eligible to vote, as 736 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected for a five-year term.

Here in Northern Ireland three seats are up for grabs, but who will be left standing when all the votes are counted...



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