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Class justice: John Wynne and the Royal Mint as exemplar

Class justice

Class justice means, essentially, that the principles of justice operate inequitably in favour of one class of people in relation to other classes. A basic definition of “class” is a division of society according to status, or a number of individuals possessing common attributes and grouped together under a general or class name.

Class justice functions when justice is done in favour of one class against another. In England in the early twentieth century, this means that justice can often be seen to operate in favour of the rich and powerful against the poor and the weak.

Class justice is exemplified by the prosecution of petty offenders against property while major criminals can appear to be immune.

This is not purely a theoretical concept. It has serious implications for people in their everyday lives.

 

Crown Immunity

The case of John Wynne and the Royal Mint

The case of John Wynne, employed by the Royal Mint at Llantrisant, South Wales, has highlighted the legal rules and procedures surrounding Crown immunity as a clear example of class justice. The facts, in summary, were that in 2001 Mr Wynne (W), suffered fatal crushing injuries when a six-tonne furnace fell from a crane. W, aged 50, had worked in the metal rolling department of the Mint for 21 years.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found itself unable to prosecute the Mint for breaches of health and safety legislation. Instead, it brought Crown Censure proceedings. At the hearing of these proceedings it was stated that the Mint had failed to follow safety procedures. The hearing was not open to the public. A report of the hearing was sent to the government, the Royal Mint and the HSE. W’s widow was not entitled to a copy of the report.

W’s widow is reported to have commented that she was shown pictures at the hearing which showed the furnace hanging from a crane, but not sitting on the hook properly. The furnace was balancing on the top and it fell. It had fallen once before, and no-one was hurt. The Mint’s management had not carried out safety checks. If they had done so, they would have realised that it was faulty and the accident could never have happened.

An HSE inspector is reported to have made the following points to the hearing:

  • W’s death was an accident waiting to happen.
  • There was sufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution against the Mint.
  • Although Crown property, including the Mint, has to comply with health and safety regulations, it cannot be prosecuted because the Crown cannot prosecute itself. 

    W’s widow is reported to have commented that she was shown pictures at the hearing which showed the furnace hanging from a crane, but not sitting on the hook properly. The furnace was balancing on the top and it fell. It had fallen once before, and no-one was hurt. The Mint’s management had not carried out safety checks. If they had done so, they would have realised that it was faulty and the accident could never have happened.

    An HSE inspector is reported to have made the following points to the hearing:

    • W’s death was an accident waiting to happen.
    • There was sufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution against the Mint.
    • Although Crown property, including the Mint, has to comply with health and safety regulations, it cannot be prosecuted because the Crown cannot prosecute itself.

Race and religious discrimination: landmark Supreme Court decision

RACE DISCRIMINATION

Indirect discrimination

Supreme Court analysis

Case  Essop and others v Home Office (UK Border Agency); Naeem v Secretary of State (2017) The Times, April 18

Facts The Supreme Court heard appeals in the cases of Essop and others and Naeem and others from the Court of Appeal. In relation to Essop, an employment tribunal had found that the claimants had to prove, in relation to an indirect discrimination claim by reason of race or age, the reason for their lower pass rates in civil service examinations.

In relation to Naeem, an employment tribunal had found that a pay system was indirectly discriminatory by reason of race and religion but it was objectively justified.

Decision      1. On a claim of indirect discrimination it is not necessary to show the reason why an employment provision put members of a particular religious or racial group at a disadvantage compared to employers who did not share that characteristic, only that that was the result. Nor did the reason, if known, have to be related to the characteristic.

2. Older and black and minority ethnic civil servants could rely on their disproportionate failure rates in a civil service promotion examination as the basis for a claim, notwithstanding that its reason was not known. What they had to show was a causal connection between a provision, criterion or practice and the disadvantage suffered.

3. An imam working as a prison chaplain could bring a claim in respect of a pay scale based on length of service as disproportionately benefiting Christian chaplains, even though it did not reflect any characteristic peculiar to him as a Muslim but resulted from the relatively recent need to employ Muslim chaplains, which gave them on average shorter lengths of service.  

4. Direct discrimination was comparatively simple. It was treating one person less favourably than you would treat another person because of a particular protected characteristic. 

5. Indirect discrimination was meant to avoid rules and practices which were not directed at or against people with a particular protected characteristic but which had the effect of putting them at a disadvantage. It was one form of trying to level the playing field. 

RACE DISCRIMINATION

Indirect discrimination

Supreme Court analysis

Case  Essop and others v Home Office (UK Border Agency); Naeem v Secretary of State (2017) The Times, April 18

Facts The Supreme Court heard appeals in the cases of Essop and others and Naeem and others from the Court of Appeal. In relation to Essop, an employment tribunal had found that the claimants had to prove, in relation to an indirect discrimination claim by reason of race or age, the reason for their lower pass rates in civil service examinations.

In relation to Naeem, an employment tribunal had found that a pay system was indirectly discriminatory by reason of race and religion but it was objectively justified.

Decision      1. On a claim of indirect discrimination it is not necessary to show the reason why an employment provision put members of a particular religious or racial group at a disadvantage compared to employers who did not share that characteristic, only that that was the result. Nor did the reason, if known, have to be related to the characteristic.

2. Older and black and minority ethnic civil servants could rely on their disproportionate failure rates in a civil service promotion examination as the basis for a claim, notwithstanding that its reason was not known. What they had to show was a causal connection between a provision, criterion or practice and the disadvantage suffered.

3. An imam working as a prison chaplain could bring a claim in respect of a pay scale based on length of service as disproportionately benefiting Christian chaplains, even though it did not reflect any characteristic peculiar to him as a Muslim but resulted from the relatively recent need to employ Muslim chaplains, which gave them on average shorter lengths of service.  

4. Direct discrimination was comparatively simple. It was treating one person less favourably than you would treat another person because of a particular protected characteristic. 

5. Indirect discrimination was meant to avoid rules and practices which were not directed at or against people with a particular protected characteristic but which had the effect of putting them at a disadvantage. It was one form of trying to level the playing field. 


Nottinghamshire County Council fined £1million after disabled man crushed by tractor

Local authority fined £1million for crushing incident

Health and Safety Executive v Nottinghamshire County Council (2017) Nottingham Crown Court, April 18

Statutory reference: ss. 2 and 3, Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA).

Nottinghamshire County Council has been fined following an incident in which a member of the public suffered crushing injuries.

The facts

·        In June 2015 employees of the council were collecting tree branches in a park and moving them, using a tractor-mounted grab attachment.

·        A disabled member of the public was on a guided walk in the park. The tractor struck him, causing serious bruising and injuries to his arms, legs and head.

·        The council had failed to implement a safe system for the work in that it had failed to segregate vehicle movements from the public.

·        It had also failed to train employees to the required level to operate the mounted grab and to act as banksmen.

·        The machine was not suitable for transporting material for long distances.

·        The council had also failed to supervise and adequately plan the work in a public place and had put employees and members of the public at risk.

The decision

The council was fined £1million plus £10,000 costs.    

 


Workplace injury: fingers amputated: company fined

Serious hand injuries: construction company fined

Health and Safety Executive v Coldmac Ltd (2017) Nuneaton magistrates’ court, March 28

Statutory reference: regulation 11 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

Coldmac Ltd, a construction company, has been fined following an incident in which a worker suffered serious hand injuries.

The facts

·        The company was engaged as specialist contractor for a new footway. In April 2015 a worker was using a screwdriver to scrape asphalt residue from a mixer. The screwdriver slipped and the worker caught his hand on the mixer. Two of his fingers were severed.

·        The guarding on the mixer was below the safety standards required for workers to operate the machinery safely.

The decision

The company was fined £6000 plus £1900 under regulation 11 of PUWER.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that it highlighted the importance of safely checking equipment and machinery, ensuring that employers had appropriate guarding to avoid serious injuries.


Trench injury: unsafe system of work:company fined £200,000

Trench injury: £200,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Forefront Utilities Ltd (2017) Maidstone Crown Court, April 12

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

Forefront Utilities Ltd, a company specialising in gas infrastructure, has been fined after a worker suffered serious injury when working in a trench.

The facts

·        In May 2014 an employee of the company was working in a trench in Rochester, Kent, to connect gas pipes. The pipes were resting on timber across the trench. A pipe fell into the trench and struck the worker. He suffered serious injuries including a fractured spine.

·        The method for jointing newly laid sections of pipe to previously laid pipe was unsafe.

The decision

The company was fined £200,000 plus £56,000 costs for a breach of s.2, HSWA.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that if a suitable safe system of work had been in place before the incident, the life changing injuries suffered by the worker could have been prevented.


Workplace laceration injury: employer fined £200,000

Engineering company fined for laceration

Health and Safety Executive v Moy Park Ltd (2017) Lincoln Crown Court, April 12

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

Moy Park Ltd, an engineering company, has been fined after an employee suffered deep laceration of his hand.

The facts

·        An engineer employed by the company was checking the blades of a cutting line at the company’s site in Lincolnshire.

·        The machine restarted and he was not able to move his hand away from the blade which he was inspecting. He suffered deep laceration to his hand.

·        The HSE investigation found that the company had failed to implement a safe system of work in relation to isolating procedures when maintaining the machinery.

The decision

The company was fined £200,000 plus £11,900 under s.2, HSWA.

 


Worker or employee or self-employed? Another tribunal decision

CONTRACTS OF EMPLOYMENT

Mutuality of obligation

Case  Capita Translations v Slauclunas and another (2017) Morning Star, April 7, EAT

Facts The Ministry of Justice entered into a framework agreement with A Ltd which was then acquired by CT to provide interpreters as and when required by tribunals and courts. S was registered with CT as a Lithuanian speaker and was told by CT about vacancies for appointments. S entered into an interpreting services agreement with CT. this required him to comply with a dress code. He was paid by the day with no provision for holiday pay, sick pay or pension and he was responsible for his own tax. S complained that he had been subjected to less favourable treatment in comparison with Russian language interpreters by reason of his race and his religious or philosophical beliefs. The ET found that S was an employee. He was under a contract to do the work personally and he was in a position of subordination. The lack of mutuality was not relevant. CT appealed to the EAT.

Decision      1. The ET judge had misdirected herself in law by failing to consider the issue of mutuality of obligation.

2. The matter should be remitted to a differently constituted tribunal for rehearing.

3. Each ET must decide cases based on its own findings of fact and its own interpretation of the law. 


Serious crushing injuries: Bryan Alexander Ltd fined for health and safety offence

Crushing injuries: £46,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Bryan Alexander Ltd (2017) Plymouth magistrates’ court, April 3

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

Bryan Alexander Ltd, a haulage company, has been fined following an incident in which an employee suffered serious crushing injuries.

The facts

·        In January 2015 an employee of the company was unloading a trailer at the roadside in Plymouth. He moved out of the way of an approaching vehicle and was crushed by a hydraulic extension on another of the company’s vehicles. He suffered life-changing internal injuries.

·        The company had failed to implement a safe system of work.

The decision

The company was fined £46,000 plus £6200 costs.


Worker electrocuted: life-changing injuries: BAM Construction Ltd fined £260,000

 

Worker electrocuted: £260,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v BAM Construction Ltd and Shoreland Projects Ltd (2017) Winchester Crown Court, April 4

Statutory reference: regulation 14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EWR).

Two companies have been fined following an incident in which a worker was electrocuted.

The facts

·        In January 2015 BAM Construction Ltd was constructing a railway operating centre in Basingstoke. BAM appointed Shoreland as groundworks contractor for the project.

·        Work began to install lampposts on the site entrance road. One of the lampposts touched 11kv overhead power lines as it was being lifted into position by an excavator.

·        Mark Bradley was electrocuted. He suffered multiple life-changing injuries including severe burns to his neck.

·        There had been a failure to properly identify the presence of the overhead power lines and to appropriately plan the work.

·        No suitable control measures were in place to prevent contact with the overhead power lines.

The decision

BAM Construction Ltd was fined £260,000 plus £9400 under regulation 14, EWR.

Shoreland Projects Ltd was fined £22,000 plus £8400 costs under regulation 14. EWR.   


Essar Oil (UK) Ltd fined £1.65million for major oil refinery explosion

Essar Oil (UK) Ltd fined £1,650,000 after explosion at refinery [remove for online]

Health and Safety Executive v Essar Oil (UK) Ltd (2017) Liverpool Crown Court, April 3

Statutory reference: regulation 4 of the Control of Major Hazards Regulations 1999 (CMHR)

Essar Oil (UK) Ltd has been fined following an explosion at its refinery in Ellesmere Port, which caused more than £20 million worth of damage.

The facts

·        In November 2013, during the startup of the refinery’s main distillation unit, highly flammable hydrocarbons were allowed to enter an unignited furnace. The heat from another furnace triggered a major explosion which destroyed the furnace, caused internal structures to collapse and started a number of fires.

·        The company had failed to take all measures necessary to prevent or mitigate a major accident.

·        A safety-critical valve was ordered and installed incorrectly and the company failed to correctly validate its operation.

·        The company failed to adequately assess the installation of a new safety-critical trip. It failed to recognise that the system had a bypass line which defeated the trip’s operation.

·        The company’s policy was to isolate main fuel lines to the furnace. Hydrocarbons entered the furnace through a secondary fuel line which had not been isolated when shut down.

The decision

The company was fined £1,650,000 plus £57,000 costs under regulation 4, CMHR.