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Archive for June, 2019

Miscarriages of justice: a reminder of the worst cases

Miscarriages of justice

Readers might wish to be reminded of the following:

  • Guildford Four. In summary, a group of three men and one woman who were convicted for the Guildford pub bombings in 1975. All four confessed. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge is reported to have commented that he regretted that they had not been charged with treason, which carried the death penalty. Their convictions were quashed in 1989. They stated that their confessions had been obtained by intimidation and torture. Alibi evidence was not shown to the police. There was evidence of police collusion in fabricating evidence.
  • Maguire Seven. Seven persons who were convicted of handling explosives and were sentenced to terms ranging from 4 to 14 years. The convictions were quashed in 1991. The court stated that police officers had beaten some of them into confessing and had withheld information. Forensic evidence was discredited.
  • Judith Ward. A woman who confessed to a number of bombings. She was convicted despite retracting the confessions and spent 18 years in prison before her conviction was quashed. Her confession had resulted from a mental illness. Forensic evidence was unreliable.
  • Birmingham Six. Six men were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975 for the Birmingham pub bombings. Their convictions were overturned in 1991. They had been forced to sign statements and there was evidence that the police had fabricated evidence.
  • Bridgwater Four. Four men were convicted of murder in 1978. In 1997 they were released on the basis that their trial had been unfair and following allegations of serious, substantial and widespread police malpractice.
  • Tottenham Three. Three men were convicted of murder following the Broadwater Farm riots in 1985. Their convictions were quashed four years later when it was shown that police notes of interrogations had been tampered with.
  • Stefan Kiszko. Kiszko spent 17 years in prison for a murder to which he confessed. Forensic evidence had been suppressed by the police. He was released in 1992. The Kiszko case has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice of all time.
  • Cardiff Three. Three men who were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. Their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal. Police evidence was described as almost entirely a fabrication and largely the product of the imagination. The court stated that it was hard to conceive of a more hostile and intimidatory approach by police officers.
  • Sally Clark. A solicitor, wrongly convicted of the murder of her two sons. She was released after serving three years of her sentence. Statistical evidence was deeply flawed. Clark was unable to recover from the effects of her conviction and imprisonment.

These are some of the most extreme and well-publicised examples of the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of the innocent. The list goes on and on but never seems to affect the constant myth that English justice is the finest in the world, that all foreign systems are in some way inferior.

 

In McIlkenny v Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Force (1980), where the Birmingham Six, later to be released on appeal, brought civil proceedings against the police. Lord Denning struck out the action and commented:

If the six men win, it will mean that the police were guilty of perjury, that they were guilty of violence and threats, and that the confessions were involuntary and were improperly admitted in evidence and that the convictions were erroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would either have to recommend that they be pardoned or he would have to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. This is such an appalling vista that every sensible person in the land would say: it cannot be right that these actions should go further.

 


New health and safety prosecutions: fairgrounds, offshore installations and more

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service v Craig Boswell (2019) Hamilton Sheriff Court, May 20

Statutory reference: s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

Craig Boswell, a fairground ride inspector, has been fined for issuing a safety certificate without a safety report.

The facts

  • In June 2016 Craig Boswell, trading as Amusement Inspection Services, issued a Declaration of Compliance for the Tsunami rollercoaster ride at Strathclyde Country Park.
  • The declaration stated that the ride was safe to operate. Later that month the ride derailed and crashed to the ground, causing serious injuries to those on board.
  • B had failed to obtain a suitable report of the non-destructive testing which showed that safety parts of the ride had been thoroughly examined while it was disassembled. Despite this, he signed the Declaration.

The decision

Boswell was sentenced to a Community Payback Order of 160 hours unpaid work to be carried out within 12 months, under s.3 of HSWA.

 

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service v Marathon Oil UK LLC (2019) Aberdeen Sheriff Court, May 20

Statutory reference: regulation 4 of the Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995 (OIPFEER) and s.33 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA).

Marathon Oil has been fined £1,160,000 following a high-pressure gas release.

The facts

  • In December 2015 pipework on the Brae Alpha offshore platform ruptured as a result of corrosion. Two tonnes of high-pressure methane gas was released.
  • The release caused widespread damage on the platform. No injuries were suffered.
  • Marathon had failed to undertake any suitable and sufficient inspection of the pipework. This had resulted in an unacceptable risk of serious personal injury or death.
  • The company was served with an improvement notice requiring it to implement an effective pipework inspection and maintenance regime.

The decision

The company was fined £1,160,000 under regulation 4 of OIPFEER and s.33 of HSWA.

 

Health and Safety Executive v Grantech Ltd (2019) Mold magistrates’ court, May 21

Statutory reference: regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and regulation 9 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).

Grantech Ltd, a granite worktop manufacturer, has been fined for failing to carry out safety checks.

The facts

  • In June 2018 the HSE inspected the company’s site and discovered that statutory examinations of lifting equipment were not carried out at the required six-monthly intervals.
  • When examinations were carried out, the same faults were reported because the company was not taking action to carry out repairs.

The decision

The company was fined £30,000 plus £4900 under regulation 5 of PUWER and regulation 9 of LOLER.

 

Health and Safety Executive v Farnell Building Contractors (2019) Manchester magistrates’ court, May 21

Statutory reference: regulation 19 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM).

Stephen Farnell, trading as Farnell Building Contractors, a building company, has been fined following the collapse of a wall.

The facts

  • In May 2018 Farnell was demolishing a garage at a site in Colne. A wall collapsed onto the home owner.
  • The owner suffered serious injuries. His leg was amputated below the knee, he suffered head injuries which caused memory loss and a serious shoulder injury.
  • The company had failed to provide suitable and sufficient measures to prevent the structure collapsing during the demolition work.
  • It had also failed to prevent other people entering the work area.

The decision

Farnell was sentenced to 120 hours community service and ordered to pay costs of £1500 under regulation 19 of CDM.

 

Health and Safety Executive v Viridor Waste Management Ltd (2019) Sefton magistrates’ court, May 22

Statutory reference: s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

Viridor Waste Management Ltd has been fined after a worker suffered serious hand injuries.

The facts

  • In October 2017 an employee of the company was working on a fridge dismantling line at the company’s site in St Helens.
  • He was using hydraulic cutters which stopped working. He reported the defect but the procedure to make the equipment safe was not followed.
  • The cutters were left close to where he was working. When he moved them, the cutters amputated the top of his right-hand index finger and partially severed another finger.
  • Defects with the cutters were common but problems were not always reported and the procedure for lock-off and isolation was inconsistently applied.

The decision

The company was fined £133,000 plus £4200 costs under s.2 of HSWA.

 

 


More recent health and safety cases

Health and Safety Executive v Centriforce Products Ltd (2019) Liverpool Crown Court, May 13

Statutory reference: S.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

Centriforce Products Ltd, a Liverpool Recycling company, has been fined following an incident in which a worker was crushed to death.

The facts

  • In May 2017 waste plastic bales were delivered to the company’s site in Liverpool. They were stacked as free-standing columns.
  • Paul Andrews, an employee of the company, was working near the stack of bales. The stack toppled and the middle and top bales, weighing more than 500 kg, fell onto him. He suffered fatal crush injuries.
  • The company had failed to store waste plastic bales securely in such a way as to prevent the risk of collapse.
  • It had also failed to carry out a suitable assessment which would have identified risks to the safety of employees within the danger area of unstable stacks.

The decision

The company was fined £120,000 plus £10,500 costs under s.2 of HSWA.

 

Health and Safety Executive v Sanders Plant and Waste Management Ltd (2019) Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court, May 13

Statutory reference: s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

Sanders Plant and Waste Management Ltd, a waste management company, has been fined after a worker was killed when he was struck by a reversing JCB loading shovel.

The facts

  • In June 2015 a wheeled front loading shovel was being operated at the company’s site in Morpeth. The vehicle was loading waste into a waste separation machine and a parked vehicle.
  • The vehicle struck George Richardson, an employee of the company. He suffered fatal injuries.
  • There was a lack of pedestrian and vehicle separation at the site. This meant that pedestrians and vehicles could not safely circulate.
  • The company had carried out a risk assessment which identified some of the risks related to the operation of the loading shovel. This had not been fully implemented and were not sufficient to manage the risks of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians.
  • There was no risk assessment or traffic management plan which considered the safe movement of vehicles across the site.

The decision

The company was fined £500,000 plus costs under s.2 of HSWA.

 

Health and Safety Executive v Robert Latham (2019) Mold magistrates’ court, May 15

Statutory reference: s. 3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

Robert Latham, a farmer, has been fined after a worker fell through the fragile roof of a milking shed on Latham’s farm.

The facts

  • In July 2018 David Rees, a self-employed contractor, was clearing out the valley gutter of the shed at the farm near Wrexham.
  • He fell and suffered fatal injuries.
  • Latham had failed to plan the work at height and had no suitable equipment for the work to be safely done.

The decision

Latham was fined £26,000 plus £3900 costs under s.3 of HSWA.

 

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service v HC-ONE Ltd (2019) Kirkaldy Sheriff Court, May 21

Statutory reference: ss. 3 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA)

HC-ONE Ltd, a care home operator, has been fined after a care home resident died after eating chlorine tablets.

The facts

  • In August 2015 a delivery of cleaning products was made to the Lomond Court Care Home in Fife. The products were left unattended in an unsealed box in a corridor.
  • The box contained a tub of unwrapped chlorine tablets which were similar to mints in appearance.
  • James McConnell, a resident of the home who suffered symptoms of Alzheimer’s diseases, was found in a distressed state close to the cleaning products.
  • Three of the tablets were missing. McConnell had eaten them. He developed pneumonia and died.
  • The company had failed to assess the risk posed by the chemical products. It had also failed to have an adequate system of work to manage deliveries of chemical products or to have an appropriate review procedure in place for the delivery arrangements of such products.

The decision

The company was fined £270,000 under ss.3 and 33 of HSWA.