Archive for September, 2014

15 yr Old From Bristol Heads To Syria

Today (30th September 2014), it has been reported that a Somali girl from Bristol may be attempting to reach Syria. Avon and Somerset police stated that the girl “may have been radicalised.” They continued;

“Our priority is to find her before she crosses the border to Syria and make sure she is safe… We must all be vigilant and ready to spot the signs of radicalisation. Often, young Muslims who go to Syria can be naive and don’t recognise that they are being sucked into joining extremist groups. This is not about criminalising these young people, it’s about preventing tragedies.”

The girl is reported to have travelled to London to meet a 17 yr old girl before they both flew from Heathrow Airport to Istanbul, Turkey.

In related news, Theresa May, Home Secretary, is later due to pledge further powers to tackle extremism at the Conservative conference. The measures include banning orders and “extreme disruption” orders which can stop people from speaking at public events or limit their social media use. It is also expected to be promised that police will be provided with further access to internet data. These measures represent a new approach of counter-radicalisation, as opposed to counter-terrorism, and will pave the way for greater scrutiny of those in positions of authority in public bodies, such as schools and charities.

This packet of measures is more far reaching than ever before, with the focus on prevention of opportunity as opposed to a more reactive response to specific threats. Of course, rights relating to freedom of speech are evidentially threatened. However, more concerning is surely that members of our society, including young women, have become so disenfranchised with their communities that radicalisation can happen. The actual meaning of the term is to reject or undermine the status quo. Will these measures enhance the appreciation of status quo? Or drive more young people into extremist groups who share a sense of identity, however macabre?

Care Home Death Prosecution

Care home death: £5000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Greencroft Care Ltd (2014) Mold magistrates’ court, September 25.

Greencroft Care Ltd, the owner of Greencroft Nursing Home in Queensferry, Deeside, has been fined following the death of a resident.

Significant points of the case

  • In August 2012 Beatrice Morgan, aged 88, a resident of the care home who was unable to walk, was lowered into a bath using a hoist. She cried out when she touched the water and suffered nine per cent burns from the scalding water. She later died from her injuries.
  • The temperature of the water was not properly controlled to prevent it exceeding 44 degrees Celsius. Mixing valves had been fitted to control the temperature but they had not been properly maintained.
  • Staff at the home had been instructed to check the temperature of bath water with a thermometer but no checks were made by management to ensure that this was done. The company had failed to adequately assess the risks of using hot water and had failed to provide sufficient training, instruction and supervision.

The company was fined £5000 for a breach of section 3, HSW Act. The court commented that if the company had not been in liquidation, the fine would have been at least £100,000.

A spokesperson for the HSE commented after the case that the incident could have been avoided if the company had observed the readily available guidance on bathing vulnerable people. Nursing homes and other organisations caring for vulnerable people must make sure that they fit and maintain the right kind of mixer on hot bath taps and properly supervise their staff.

BAE Fined For Health And Safety Offence

Gun injuries: BAE company fined

Health and Safety Executive v BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited (2014) September 19, Newcastle Crown Court.

BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Limited, the munitions subsidiary of BAE Systems, has been fined after a worker suffered serious leg injuries when test firing a gun.

Significant points of the case

  • An employee of BAE was test firing a gun on a test range in Northumberland. A boresight, which was an aiming device, had been left in the barrel of the gun when it should have been removed before firing.
  • When the employee fired the gun, the barrel became jammed. The breech bolt, which weighed 7kg, ejected from the gun and struck his left leg with great force. His leg bone was shattered and he spent six weeks in hospital.
  • The company recognised the hazards of not removing a boresight before firing and had interlocked other guns to avoid this type of incident. The weapon which caused the injuries had not been interlocked.

The company was fined £80,000 plus £100,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that this was a highly specialised global company whose safety standards should be industry-leading. There were recognised preventative measures which should have been employed to make sure that this kind of serious incident could not happen.


Environment Agency Prosecuted

Prosecution of Environment Agency: £5000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v The Environment Agency (2014) Kendal magistrates’ court, September 17.

The Environment Agency has been fined following an incident in which an employee suffered serious finger injuries.

Significant points of the case

  • In April 2013 an employee of the Agency, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working at the Bridge End depot near Kendal.
  • The middle finger of his left was caught by an unguarded circular saw and had to be amputated.
  • It had become standard practice for workers to use the saw without a guard after they found it difficult to cut large pieces of wood with the guard in place.
  • The injured worker had been using the circular saw on a multi-function woodworking machine to cut two-inch thick pegs. No risk assessment had been carried out for the work and supervision had been inadequate. Managers had not known that the saw was being used without a guard.

The Environment Agency was fined £5000 plus £1300 costs for a breach of regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) for failing to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery.

A spokesperson for the HSE is reported to have commented after the case that the fact that it had become standard practice for the saw to be used without a guard made it almost inevitable that someone would inevitably be injured.

Emma Watson Targeted By Trolls After Speaking At United Nations (UN)

Hollywood actress Emma Watson, who is most famously known for appearing in the Harry Potter franchise, has been subjected to an apparent online threat after she spoke about gender equality.

Speaking in her role as goodwill ambassador for UN Women, she launched the “HeForShe” campaign where she appealed to men to tackle gender equality. She said:

“I  was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating…If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”

She continued:

“Men – I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation…Gender equality is your issue too.”

“Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s…I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less ‘macho’ — in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.”

Yet, in a stark example of Ms Watson’s concerns over the treatment of the sexualisation of women, trolls issued a threat to leak nude pictures of her on “4chan”. The website, which is said to have hosted the recent leaked naked pictures of celebrities, now features a page stating “Emma you are next”.

Here is a woman who has grown up in the public eye due to her appearance in Harry Potter. We have witnessed her emergence from a child to a woman. She has now developed into an adept speaker on behalf of women’s rights. And yet, in response to her inspirational speech people, protected by anonymity that the internet provides, have threatened a gross violation of her privacy. Would a male be treated the same way?

Gender equality for all is a key issue. It is demonstrable through UK employment law where white, able-bodied males without a religion are unable to rely on discrimination provisions even though, for the want of a protected characteristic, have suffered discriminatory treatment. Sadly, however, it would seem that we are even further away than we thought from the equal treatment of people irrespective of gender.

Scaffolding Death: Prison Sentence

Scaffolding death: prison sentence

Health and Safety Executive v Mark Anthony Hayes t/a WSS Scaffolding (2014) Southwark Crown Court, September 4.

Mark Anthony Hayes, the owner of WSS Scaffolding, has been sentenced to 15 months imprisonment following the death of a scaffolder.

Significant points of the case

  • In July 2012 Grant Dunmall, a scaffolder employed by Hayes, fell 14 metres to his death from a tower scaffold in Notting Hill.
  • There was no edge protection on the scaffold and no other means, for example a fall arrest harness, to prevent or mitigate a fall.
  • Hayes had failed to properly plan, supervise and carry out work at height in a safe manner.
  • In 2013 Hayes had been fined for failing to provide legally required documents related to his management of work at height after he had ignored a notice to prduce served by the HSE.

Hayes was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for a breach of regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

A spokesperson for the HSE is reported to have commented after the case that the investigation into Dunmall’s death had been delayed because of Hayes’ lack of co-operation. His wilful obstruction served to accentuate the fact that his systems and procedures for safely managing work at height were sorely lacking and fell short of the standards expected from a competent scaffolder.

Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill: rhetoric or change?

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill, nicknamed the Sarah Bill, was announced in the Queen’s speech earlier this year. It intends to provide further protection to employers and volunteers by requiring courts to look at the social action, responsibility and heroism of acts when assessing standard of care in negligence claims.

For legislation, it is comparatively brief, with 5 sections and running to one and a half pages. Its brevity, and content, however has been questioned in a letter to Chris Grayling, justice secretary, from the Parliament’s joint committee on human rights (JCHR), which queried whether it was intended to change negligence law or to counter public misconceptions about it. In response, Grayling stated that;

“The bill will not change this overarching legal framework, but it will direct the courts to consider particular factors when considering whether the defendant took reasonable care.”

During the debate on this bill, it has also transpired that the insurance industry has donated £5-£6 million to the Conservative party. Indeed, in the government’s statutory impact assessment which is required for all bills, it was noted that;

“Insurers and other defendants may gain from slightly reduced aggregate compensation paid and this may feed through to lower insurance premiums.”

In contrast, as Andrew Slaughter told the Guardian (Friday 12th September 2014),

“Access to justice is under threat and our prisons are in crisis but this is what the Conservatives waste our time on. The committee stage of the bill has shown how little support there is for these measures which Chris Grayling himself admits will not change the law in any way.”

Whether the bill proceeds unchanged remains to be seen. It does, however, reveal the interplay between law, politics and the public, which are increasingly becoming blurred.


Legal Aid Cuts

Legal Aid Cuts: Judicial Review Brought By Criminal Solicitors
Today (10th September 2014), the judicial review challenge against the legal aid cuts began. The review, brought by London Criminal Court Solicitors’ Association and the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, focuses on the legality of the consultation. The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been named as the defendant in the hearing. The key argument is that the Ministry of Justice’s consultation process was inadequate, in that crucial research was withhold from legal professionals
The Law Society, the body representative of solicitors in England and Wales, stated that it was “manipulated” into agreeing changes. Jason Coppell QC, acting for the applicants, submitted that:
“The lord chancellor personally misled [criminal solicitors] about the matter of the independent research which had been commissioned to assist him to make decisions. He personally refused to disclose that research, it would seem, for no other reason than that it might provide ammunition to critics of his proposals.”
In reply, via a skeleton argument produced by James Eadie QC, Mr Grayling stated that “there was a long and wide-ranging consultation process”.
The case continues.

Legal Aid cuts: Overview
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013 (LASPO) dramatically reduced the categories of cases where legal aid could be claimed. The following categories are now excluded:
• Family (if no proof of domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction)
• Immigration (if no asylum/detention elements)
• Housing and debt (unless immediate threat to home)
• Welfare benefit (except appeals)
• Almost all clinical negligence
• Employment (if no human trafficking or breach of Equality Act 2010)
There has been a 62% drop in civil cases since LASPO came into force.

Does this mean that there are less civil disputes or only that people cannot afford access to justice?

Disqualified Director Imprisoned For Health And Safety Offences

Crushing Death:Prison Sentences
Department of Business Innovation and Skills and Health and Safety Executive v Paul O’Boyle and Russell Lee (2014) Winchester Crown Court, August 29
Paul O’Boyle and Russell Lee have been sentenced for serious safety and fraud offences following the death of a worker from crushing.
Significant points of the case
• In September 2010 Ian Middlemiss was crushed to death by a heavy sandbox at a foundry operated by Aztech BA Ltd in Alton, Hampshire. The company was run by O’Boyle and by Lee. The sandbox, which weighed two tonnes and fell from the lifting chains of a crane which the deceased was using to manoeuvre it.
• The HSE investigation found that the crane had not been checked and tested and there were inadequate provisions in place dealing with competency, supervision and training.
• There were also problems with lead exposure at the premises. Control and health surveillance measures were inadequate and workers were exposed to potentially harmful levels of lead.
• At the time of the fatality the foundry was the subject of three improvement notices served following earlier visits by the HSE. Few of the required safety improvements had been implemented.
• O’Boyle had contravened two orders which disqualified him from acting as a director. He was convicted of these offences and for an offence under the Fraud Act 2006.
• Lee was convicted of aiding and abetting O’Boyle in the breach of his disqualification and for a breach of section 2, HSW Act.
O’Boyle was sentenced to ten months imprisonment for the fraud offence, eight months for breaches of a disqualification order and 16 months for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.
Lee was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

The Legal Implications of Ashya King

Many people will be aware of the sad story this weekend of Ashya King, the five-year-old boy with a brain tumour whose parents removed him from hospital and fled to Malaga, Spain. The police began a large-scale man hunt for his parents and issued a European arrest warrant.
It has subsequently emerged that Mr and Mrs King took their child from Southampton General Hospital without doctors’ consent to obtain treatment which was not available here on the NHS. The police have since faced criticism due to their proactive investigation, which originally focused on claims that Ashya’s life was in serious danger if he did not receive urgent medical treatment.
A spokesman for Málaga’s Hospital Materno-Infantil, where Ashya is currently being treated, stated he was stable and his life was not in danger.
Today, (1st September 2014), his parents will face court in Madrid to hear whether they will face an extradition hearing under the warrant on suspicion of neglect.
In general terms, neglect is defined as;
“the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.
In relation to medical treatment, parents can remove children from hospital unless a court order prevents them from doing so. A hospital must obtain a court order to continue with treatment if parental consent is withdrawn.
In Ashya’s case, it appears in no way correct to state that seeking alternative medical treatment would be a failure to meet a child’s needs, particularly when facing a terminal illness. Further, taking their child out of hospital does not amount to a persistent failure. It could be argued that not doing so is a more likely to be classed as neglect.
While this will undoubtedly be recognised in the courts eventually, it is hoped that the Madrid court today throws out this case, allowing Ashya and his parents to be reunited in a case where time truly is of the essence.