Archive for October, 2014

Somerset Farm Explosion Death: Health And Safety Prosecution

Farm explosion death: £80,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Cantelo Nurseries Ltd (2014) Taunton Crown Court, October 24.

Cantelo Nurseries Ltd, a horticultural company, has been fined after one worker was killed and three others seriously injured in an explosion.

Significant points of the case

  • In May 2010 Peter James, an employee of Cantelo, was working at a nursery on a farm near Taunton. He was told to unbolt a hatch cover from a pressurised tank used to heat greenhouses.
  • There was still pressure in the system. A release of pressure sent the hatch cover flying. It struck James, causing fatal injuries. Three other workers suffered serious injuries.
  • The work had not been properly planned, workers had not been properly trained or supervised, and one of them spoke very little English and found it difficult to understand instructions.
  • The hatch should not have been removed until all the pressure had been safely released from the system.

The company was fined £80,000 plus £59,000 costs for breaches of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees, and section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

An HSE inspector is reported to have made the following comments after the case:

  • The tragic incident had cost one man his life and changed the lives of many other people for ever.
  • There were simple, sensible and proportionate steps, for example releasing the pressure in the tanks, which could and should have been taken to do the work safely.
  • All that was needed was a little thought beforehand to ensure that the work was properly planned, carried out by competent people and supervised.

UK Gender Gap Continues To Widen

Research published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has shown that the UK has slipped down to 26th in the rankings of its Global Gender Gap Report. The report measures four key categories, economic, education, health and politics, although the decline has been attributed to a significantly low score in “economic participation”. This includes ratios of women in the workforce, wage equality for similar work by men and the number of women in senior roles.

The WEF commented that this;

“appears to remain some way off, with the country ranking 48th in terms of both labour force participation and wage equality and 66th for estimated earned income…Unlike many of its peers, it has still yet to close its educational attainment and health and survival gaps (ranking 32 and 94 respectively), while it does moderately better in the fourth area we measure, political empowerment, where it ranks 33rd.”

Experts appear to conclude that the reason for this is ultimately down to childcare arrangements. As Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute stated;

“The issue in the UK is that while there are more women in the workplace they tend to be in the lower-level positions. The pay gaps continue to be alarmingly large for men and women doing the same senior role.”

Further, Spencer Thompson, a senior economic analyst at the think tank IPPR, highlighted that France and UK spend more on childcare but through transferring cash to parents as opposed to the Nordic countries, which fared much better in the WEF report, who provided it free at the point of use/subsidised.

In the UK, we have access to Employment Tribunal procedures to ensure that equality, in principle, can be guaranteed in pay. However, as the WEF report shows, one of the key issues is the mobility of women through the ranks of employment to gain access to the more senior, and better paid, positions. The question is not an easy one. While it is clear that men and women should receive the same wage for the same work done, employers, particularly small ones, are deterred from employing women who are more likely to take a career break. While gender equality is vital in a just democracy, in employment law it cannot be considered in isolation from parental rights. Clearly, however, the current system is failing.

Oldham Factory Crushing Death:Health And Safety Prosecution

Factory death: £95,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Refinery Supplies Ltd (2014) Manchester Crown Court, October 24

Refinery Supplies Ltd, a manufacturing company, has been fined following the death by crushing of an employee.

Significant points of the case

  • In July 2011 Michael Wickstead, an employee of the company, was working at its site in Oldham. He was working with a large steel container used to contain molten lead or zinc.
  • The container was resting on a stand with chains hanging down to it from an overhead crane. Another crane collided with the crane and the container fell onto Wickstead, causing fatal crush injuries.
  • The company should have had a clear working system in place to prevent workers being injured. This could have included fitting anti-collision device or making sure that there was a safe method in place to avoid the cranes coming into contact with each other.
  • The company was fined £90,000 plus £35,000 costs for a breach of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

An HSE inspector commented that the company knew that there was a risk of cranes colliding. This had happened on several previous occasions without the same catastrophic result. But the company had failed to take any action to make sure that workers were not put at risk of being injured.


Mesothelioma:Asbestos Exposure:Supreme Court Decision:First Instance Trial In Bristol

Mesothelioma: causation: exposure to asbestos

Case    McDonald v National Grid Electricity Transmission plc [2014] UKSC 53

Facts    M worked as a lorry driver collecting loads of fuel ash from Battersea Power Station between 1955 and 1959. He had no direct contact with asbestos in the course of his work. He sometimes entered the power station and went into areas where asbestos dust was generated by lagging work. In 2012 he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died in 2014 and was represented by his widow. She claimed compensation for breaches of the Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931 and the Factories Act 1937, the legislation which applied during the period of his employment. The defendant (National Grid) was the successor to the occupier and operator of Battersea Power Station.

At first instance, the trial judge in Bristol dismissed the claims on the basis that his exposure to asbestos had been of a modest level and unlikely to pose any health risk. The defendant had submitted that M had not been employed by the occupier of the premises and that his main work was not directly involved with asbestos.

M appealed to the Court of Appeal. It was argued on his behalf that working with asbestos was a risk even if the work was occasional or for limited periods. The Court allowed the appeal under the 1931 Regulations but dismissed the appeal under the 1937 Act. The defendant and M appealed to the Supreme Court.

Decision          1. The occupier of a site is responsible under the Factories Act 1937 for all persons on the site. This responsibility is not limited to direct employees.

2. There was insufficient evidence to rebut the finding of the Court of Appeal that M had not established that a substantial quantity of dust was given off by the lagging process. There was no liability under the Act of 1937.

3. The Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931 applied to all premises using asbestos and was not limited to those dealing with it in a raw, unprocessed form. The Regulations were intended to address harm which could be caused by the manipulation of asbestos rather than focusing on any particular setting where it might take place.

4. A worker in a factory or workshop where the processing of asbestos takes place is within the scope of the 1931 Regulations even if he is not mixing asbestos himself or is directly employed by the occupiers of premises where that is taking place.

5. It was a fallacious argument to submit that liability depended on a substantial quantity of asbestos dust being inhaled.

6.The appeals were dismissed.


Lord Freud Comments On Disability

At a fringe meeting of the Conservative party conference held last month, Lord Freud was recorded as saying;

“You make a really good point about the disabled … There is a group – and I know exactly who you mean – where actually, as you say, they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working, can we actually …”

His comments came in response to a colleague with a seriously disabled daughter who had suggested that people with mental health problems may be unable to work as employers are unwilling to pay them the statutory minimum wage.

The key word in his comments appears to be “worth”. Labour have jumped on this and called for Lord Freud to be sacked from his position as Welfare minister. A vote of no confidence is expected to take place next week to discuss Lord Freud’s position.

The comments, as he now accepts, have come across offensive. It is a key tenet of discrimination law that everyone is treated equally, irrespective of characteristics such as disability. However, Lord Freud’s underlying point is one that merits further discussion. Some disabled people, particularly those with mental health problems, do suffer from finding employment due to the rigidity required of employment law. While everyone should be paid equally for equal work, if there were ways of loosening restrictions to allow employers, and employees, flexibility there is potential for greatly enhancing access to employment for some disabled people.

Bristol Vehicle Explosion: Health And Safety Prosecution

Exploding vehicle: £2000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Redland Road Marking Ltd (2014) Bristol magistrates’court, October 8.

Redland Road Marking Ltd has been fined following the explosion of a road marking vehicle.

Significant points of the case

  • In June 2013 Neil Higgins, an employee of the company, was laying road markings in Bristol. The road marking vehicle caught fire and exploded. Higgins suffered minor burns.
  • The HSE investigation found that gas-heated cauldrons on top of the vehicle were unsuitable for the work. The pipework was not properly connected and had not been fitted by a competent person. The equipment had no flame failure devices.

The company was fined £2000 plus £1,123 costs under regulation 4(1), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) for failing to ensure that work equipment was suitable for the purpose for which it was used or provided.

A spokesperson for the HSE is reported to have commented after the case that this was not the first time that there had been a fire of this nature on a road marking vehicle. Operators needed to ensure that equipment had been installed by a competent person and regularly maintained. It was a matter of good fortune that nobody dies as a result of the incident.


Mental Health And Employment

Last Friday, 10th October, was World Mental Health Day. Its aim is to raise awareness and support of those suffering with mental health problems. In tandem with this, during the Liberal Democrats’ party conference last week, leader Nick Clegg announced its party’s commitment to provide waiting time standards for mental health conditions’ treatment.

1 in 4 people will suffer from mental health problems at some point in their lives. An increasing amount of those conditions are caused, or exacerbated, by workplace conditions.

As a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group of Wellbeing Economics pointed out, UK employees work some of the longest hours in Europe. Coupled with the insecurity of low pay and volatile job market, official statistics reveal a worrying increase in anxiety, stress and other mental health issues. We are, it seems, in a wellbeing crisis.

Wellbeing and mental health do not necessary tie neatly hand in hand. However, some mental health issues, particularly those triggered by stressful external situations and difficult relationships, can be moderated by an increase awareness of wellbeing in the workplace. This is turn will have productivity gains, let alone sidestep the £100 billion cost to the UK that sickness absence brings. As Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin shows, it is an asset to the employer to focus on its employees’ mental health. He has recently incorporated the US idea of unlimited holiday into his employment policy to some of his employees. He is also well-known for inviting hardworking and excelling staff to his Caribbean island, along with holding an annual summer party for Virgin employees at his country house. He focuses on employees enjoying the work they do, and yet still manages to make Virgin one of the most successful companies in the world.

Mental health is a difficult challenge for society, let alone employers. However, by increasing a focus on wellbeing and evaluating traditional models of employment relationships, both employers and employees will have an increased satisfaction in their working lives.

Major New Publication

Here is the index to my new book – LAW – to give you an idea of the book’s scope and contents.




Abel, Richard

pro bono, on    74

Actus reus       307, 315, 403


boredom of     373

practical hints  372

Advocacy monopoly   12, 13, 187, 230, 348-9

Aims of book  1-2

Alexander, Robert

legality of Iraq War, and         267-9

Alternative practice     383-95

demystification           384-5

direct access    384

education        385

equal opportunities      386-7


professional codes of conduct                        386

professional standards            385-6

reality  393-5

recruitment      387-8

seminars          387

theoretical basis           381-2

website            388-9

American radical lawyers        212-14, 382-3

Americanisation          56,71

charity, and     83

conditional fee agreements, and         33

Amnesty International

Cuba, and        251, 252, 253-4

legal journals, and 10

right to refuse to kill, and 234

trial of Saddam Hussein, on   293-4

Anarchist views

summary          209


B-52 Two        288-90

Bar Council

conditional fee agreements, guidance on        38-9

Bar Pro Bono Unit      76-9

criteria for charitable assistance          77-8

Bar Select        57

Barclay, Harold

People Without Government   207-8

Barrister’s clerk           358

Bear Garden    307, 319-21

Begging           58-9

Benefit fraud  55-6

Bentham, Jeremy        308-9

Beresford, James         52-4

Bevan, Aneurin           66-7

identity cards, on        262

Bingham, Lord            17

legality of Iraq War, and         267, 269, 283

torture, on       243, 247

Birmingham Six          14

Blair, Tony

Iraq War, and  273-5, 279-80, 281, 294, 296, 303

Bonnot Gang  197-8

Bowring, Bill

human rights, on         232-3

Brailsford, HN

Levellers, on    183-4

Bridgwater Four         14


Cab-rank rule  355

Camus, Albert

charity, on       73-4

death penalty, on        298

Cardiff Three  15

Causes of crime           112-13

Champerty      37


Americanisation, and  71-2

Latin, use of    70-1

legal charitable institutions     76-81

objections to    72-3

theoretical approaches             69-70

Charity law     68-9

Chilcot Inquiry            278-81

Citizens’ Advice Bureau

conditional fee agreements, on           35-6

Civil claims

funding of       143-4

Civil Procedure Rules328

Claimants’ unions        399

Claims Direct  41-2

features of operations41-2

Claims management services  39-40

Clark, Sally     15

Class    87-179

law as weapon of class conflict          110-12

Class justice

causes of crime            112-13

Crimewatch, and         117-18

criminal law, and         110-11

Cuba    169-79

French illegalists         167-8

health and safety in prisons    127-31

health and safety law, and      119-20

homelessness   105-6


judiciary, and  159-65

magistrates’ courts, and           152-3

Mozambique   165-6

Nazi law          168-9

oral tobacco     157-8

Paris Commune           166-7

political trials   116-17

prohibition       153-7

Saudi Arms Inquiry    106-8


technical immunity of employers        102-5

working classes           114-16

Coke, Edward184

Costs   58

Compensation Act 2006         40

Conditional fee agreements    10,35-9

arguments against       36-7

Bar Council on            38-9

Citizens’ Advice Bureau on    35-6

defamation, and          37-8


Corporate manslaughter          137-43

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings       138-9

Counsel magazine       45,351, 357

Court dress      317-19

Cranston, Maurice

human rights, on         231

Crimewatch     117-18

Criminal law

class justice, and         110-11

Crown censures           92-100

Crown immunity         88-102

civil proceedings         100-2

criminal proceedings   90-100


rule of law, and           100

Cuba    169-79

aspects of legal system            169-71

causes of crime, and    112-13

constitution     254-7

criminal justice            177-8

economic regulation    179

healthcare        251-2

HIV/AIDS      257

human rights, and       173-4, 248-54

“dangerousness”         248, 253

Amnesty International concerns 253-4

judicial system176

law and equality          176

lawyers in        174-5

legal practice   112-13

origins of Cuban law   171


private property           178-9

socialist legality           172-3, 255

Cuba Solidarity Campaign      250

Customary international law   282


Death penalty  295-9

philosophical and moral objections     297-9

Saddam Hussein, and295-7


conditional fee agreements, and         37-8

Demystification methods        339-41

case law           339-40

regulations       339

statutes                        339

Denning, Lord15, 36-7, 105-6, 168, 225

Disability discrimination         323-6

Dissent            181-221

Divorce Reform Act 1968      48

Dyer, Claire

pro bono, on    75


Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004        332-4

Employment dispute regulations        6, 344

Employment law         330-4

Employment protection

money, and     50-1

Employment tribunals             326-30

applications     327-9

procedure        326-7

Engels, Frederick

class justice, on           110-11

working class life, on  119-20

English legal system

summary of good points         7-8

Equality Act 2010       323

Eructation       341

European Convention on Human Rights        390-1

clarity of          340, 342-3

European law

health and safety law, and      135-6

European Social Charter         235-6

Expresso sack trucks   58


Factories legislation

history of         121-2

Fixed-term employment contracts      331-2

Foot, Michael  67, 133

Footnotes, absence of4

Free market

reforms towards          10

Free Representation Unit        79-80

French illegalists         167-8, 197-8


Gavel   342-3

Gifford, Lord 371

reform proposals         11-12

Glanville Williams       22

Globalisation   10

Godwin, William        187-90

Goldman, Emma         199

class justice, on           113-14

Gresford mining disaster        133

Guantanamo Bay        251

Guildford Four           13


Haas, Jeffrey   214

Hain, Peter

political trials, on         116-17

Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers            210-11

Hale, Baroness            136, 283, 336-7

Health and Safety at Work etc., Act 1974     132-3

Health and safety law

clarity  133, 334-9

class justice, and         119-20

European law, and      135-6

historical context         121-2

Iraq War, and  291-2

migrant workers          144-7



resources         122-3

significance     120-1

significant recent developments         135-45

war context     291-2

Hillsborough disaster  112


Cuba    257


class justice, and         105-6

Human rights

Asia, in            230

contents of current English textbooks            229

criticisms of     223-5

Cuba, and        173-4 see also Cuba

individual and collective         227-8

individual, extreme examples238-42

international law         233-6

poverty, and    230-1


smoking, and   240-2

socio-economic rights231

South Africa, and see South Africa


Human Rights Act 1998         232

Human rights industry                        228, 233

cost of textbooks        233


class justice, and         105-6


Identity cards  261-2

Illiteracy          399-400

Inner Temple Yearbook          352

Intellectual property    49-50

International Bar Association69-70

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1977        234-5

International Labour Organisation      236-7

International law

human rights, and       233-6

Iraq War          263-304

cases connected with  281-91

death penalty, and      295-6

economic implications264-5

effect on relationship between law and morality        299-300

health and safety law, and      291-2

importance of  300-4

lawyer, role of 300-4

legality            266-81

Peacerights      275-8

Robert Alexander on  267-9

significance     8-9

Kendall-Smith, Malcom          284-5

King James Bible        344

Kiszko, Stefan14

Kropotkin, Peter         193-7

origin of state, on        197


Jones, Simon   133-4

Judicial killing see Death penalty


class justice, and         159-65

composition of            160-1

current role of161-5

defenders of rights, as9


Ladders2Law              367-8

Language of the law   308-9

Latin see Legal Latin

Law and morality

Iraq War, and  299-300

Law books

price    61-3

Law Centres    80-1, 370-2

issues dealt with          371

reduction in number and funding of   80

Law industry   25-6

Law journals

topics covered by        65-6

Law reform     11-13

Gifford proposals        11-12

Law Works     79

Lawyer jokes   368-70


cultural divide, and     351-4

image and perception  351-4

Lawyers’ income         42-8

Legal Action Group    7,8, 33-4

publications     10, 63

Legal aid         32-4

virtual disappearance  10

Legal expenses insurance        143

Legal Latin      312-16

charity, and 70-1

Legal publishing

price of law books       61-3

profitability     59-60

recent developments   59

taxonomy        63-5

topics covered by leading law journals           65-6

Levellers          182-7

Brailsford on   183-4

Case of the Army truly stated  186

reform proposals         12-13

Third Agreement of the People           186-7

LIBEL board game     395

Liberty            225

Light-switch syndrome           396-8

Lilburne, John185

Litigants in person      341


Maastricht Treaty 1992

Social Chapter             236

Magistrates’ courts

class justice, and         152-3

Maguire Seven            13-14

Mandela, Nelson         201-2

Martial law      256-7

McLibel          216-20, 238

Mediation        378-9

Mens rea          315

Migrant workers          144-7

alternative practice, and          393-5

Miners’ compensation claims  51-4

Miscarriages of justice13-16

Mitford, Jessica           200-1

Monbiot, George

Blair, case against       274-5

lawyers, on      214

legality of Iraq War, on           272-3

Money             17-85

Americanisation of English legal profession   56,71

benefit fraud   55-6

central role of  25-6

costs of practice as barrister    54-5

employment protection, and   50-1

examples of poor clients denied justice 26-30

employment disputes  28-9

homelessness   26

personal injury26-8

redundancy     26

unpaid wages  29-30

intellectual property, and        49-50

law as potentially corrupting profession         30-2

parasitism, and            56-8

Moses, Lord Justice

appeals, on      375


class justice, and         165-6

Mystery           305-45

Civil Procedure Rules328

clarity, examples of                 334-9

demystification methods, see also Demystification methods

disability discrimination          323-6

employment law          330-4

employment tribunals  326-30

eructation        341

European Convention on Human Rights                    340-1

examples of incomprehensible legal language321-6

gavel    342

health and safety law  334-9

King James Bible        344

lawyer as priest           310-11

litigants in person        341

perpetuities, rule against         321-2

Rent Act 1974            321

rogue and vagabond   341-2

section 78 (1) Law of Property Act 1925       322


National Health Service          67

Nazi law          168-9

No win no fee6, 35-9, 143-4 see also Conditional fee agreements

Nuremburg Trials        285, 292-3


Office of Fair Trading

Competition in the Professions            350

public access, and       365

Report of 2001 359

Ogden Tables  376-8

Old books for the third world 84-5

Oral tobacco    157

Orwell, George

class justice, on           158-9

death penalty, on        297

principles of good English      343-4

Owen, Robert121


Parasitism        56-9

Paris Commune           87, 166-7

Patent trolls     50

Peacerights      275-8

Perpetuities, rule against         321-2

Poverty            18-24 see also Money

statistics          23-4

unfair dismissal, and   19

Practice           347-401

alternative see Alternative practice

advocacy         372-5

barrister’s clerk            358

boredom of law           376

Cuba see Cuba

gifts to solicitors         379-80

lawyer jokes    368-70

LIBEL board game     395

mediation        378-9

Ogden Tables  376-8

public access   364-6

pupillage          357, 363-4

qualification by accident of birth        367-8

specimen opening statement   390-3

traditional        368-9

Wanted advertisement357

welfare law see Welfare law


Crown immunity         131-2

Cuba    249-50

health and safety in     127-31

human rights, and       249-51

Pritt, DN         210

Pro bono          67-85

criticisms of     81-4

initiatives         84-5

lawyers, and    75-6

state funded legal advice and representation, and     81

Proceeds of Crime Act           48

Prohibition      153-7

Property law    34-5

Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph         208-9

Public access   364-6

Office of Fair Trading, and    365

Public Interest Lawyers          263

Pupillage         357, 363-4


Queen’s Counsel         358-63

appointment system    359-61

consultancy     361-2

fees      359

honorary          363

junior barrister, and     47-8


Radical legal opinion

virtual disappearance of          9-10

Res ipsa loquitur         314

Revolutionary criminality, theory of   167-8

Rights  223-62

Robens Report                        334

Rogue and vagabond  341-2

Rowntree Foundation23

Royal Courts of Justice Citizen’s Advice Bureau       24

Royal Mint      88-9

Rule of law

Crown immunity, and100

EP Thompson on         203-5


Sachs, Albie    203

death penalty, on        297-8

human rights, on         257-8

lawyers, on      355-7

torture, on       246-7

Saddam Hussein

execution         293-7

trial      293-5

Saudi Arms Inquiry    106-8

Serge, Victor

class justice, on           111-12

Serra, Tony      213

Smith, Douglas           52-4

Social Chapter of Maastricht Treaty   236

Socialist legality

Cuba, and        172-3, 255


gifts to             379-80

South Africa   257-61

constitution     259

human rights   257-61


Franco regime123

Specimen opening statement

unrepresented client, for         390-3

Squatters’ associations            399

Steyn, Lord

legality of Iraq War, and         270-2

Strong State theory     199-200

Sullman, Anthony       41-2


Tabling            153

Taxonomy       63-5

Tenants associations    399

Thompson, EP

class justice, on           108-9, 121

rule of law, on203-5

Writing by Candlelight            205-7

Thoreau, Henry David            208

Tolstoy, Leo    190-3

Torture 242-8

Tottenham Three         14

Trial without jury        49

Tribunal representation           398-9


Unfair dismissal

poverty, and    19

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948            234

Up Against The Law  214-16


Verges, Jacques           375

Volenti non fit injuria  314-15


Walwyn, William        184-5

Wanted advertisement357

Ward, Judith   14

Welfare state

dismantling of32

Welfare law     396-400

light-switch syndrome            396-8

positive proposals for welfare rights workers             399-400

Wigs    11, 55

Wilde, Oscar   72-3

Wilmshurst, Elizabeth             279-80

Wilson, Joan Hoff

lawyers, on      355-7

Winstanley, Gerrard                187

Wolfgang, Walter       271

Wood, Sir Michael      280

Work-related stress     136-7

Working classes

legal definition            114-16

Wynne, John               88-9

New Book: LAW

My new book is almost ready and we are taking advance orders: £20 or £10 for unwaged. The book can be ordered from rsp4593558@aol.com or Robert.spicer@frederickchambers.co.uk

It’s  almost 500 pages of heavy-duty, deeply critical comment on the English legal system and legal profession. It’s the culmination of years of research.  Extracts from the book have been published in previous blogs.

Major New Publication

Advance orders are now being taken for Robert Spicer’s new book – LAW – a detailed critique of the English legal system and legal profession. 462 pages of criticism of class justice, money fetishism, professional practice and many other features. Price £20 or £10 for unwaged. More details to come.