Complaint over law firm’s radio advert rejected

Radio: Advert did not breach code

A Merseyside law firm has been cleared of breaking Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules with a radio advert that highlighted the fear of “a social worker at your door to take your child”.

The ASA acknowledged that the advert from Bootle firm James Murray Solicitors “might make some people feel uncomfortable” but ruled that it was not likely to cause “unjustifiable distress”.

The advert ran: “I’m James Murray. And what’s more frightening than a social worker at your door to take your child. The kids are screaming, your head’s banging. Ring James Murray Solicitors, you need a friend, someone to speak up for you, a tough lawyer. A James Murray, legal fighter in court, championing your case. And don’t worry, legal aid is always available.”

The complainant, who worked in children’s safeguarding and believed that the advert portrayed social workers as being intent on taking children away from their families, challenged whether it distressed the audience without justifiable reason and was irresponsible.

The law firm told the ASA that the intention was to make parents aware that they could seek legal help and obtain financial assistance through legal aid if their children were removed from their care, and that “frightening” referred to the prospect of parents being separated from their children, not the behaviour of social workers.

It pointed to data from the charity Family Rights Group that showed 32,000 children were taken away by social workers in 2019.

Further, it said, Mr Murray himself had significant past experience as a social worker in a deprived area of Merseyside and knew that parents in such situations were invariably frightened and not always aware of the legal help available to them.

The solicitors said it was the first complaint in several years of running the advert.

Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio that clears advert, backed the law firm’s stance, arguing that the language used was not likely to undermine public trust in social workers.

The ASA ruled: “We noted that the advert took a strong creative approach, describing the ‘frightening’ sudden arrival of a social worker and that the voiceover placed a strong emphasis on them being at ‘your door’ to take ‘your child’.

“However, we considered that description was likely to be interpreted as a realistic portrayal of how someone might feel in the circumstances of having their child removed from their care and was therefore proportionate to the seriousness of the scenario.”

The regulator noted that the advert focused only on how the adult might feel and did not, for example, feature children’s voices.

“While we acknowledged that the way the scenario was presented might make some people feel uncomfortable we did not consider that it was likely to cause unjustifiable distress.”

The ASA concluded that the advert was not in breach of the rules on social responsibility, and harm and offence.

Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Legal project management – a mindset lawyers can easily apply

Where budgets are tight, lawyers will be considering what’s in their existing arsenal to still improve productivity. One effective, accessible and cheap tool is legal project management.

How a good customer journey can put your business on the map

Good customer service should be a priority for any business and, if you want to stay ahead of the competition, something that’s constantly under review.

The CAT’s welcome boost for the funding industry

There was welcome guidance from the Competition Appeal Tribunal this week for funded cases looking for certainty following PACCAR, with the renegotiated Sony litigation funding agreement upheld as lawful.

Loading animation