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INQUEST INTO CRANE DEATH HALTED

Witness refusal to answer questions causes inquest delay

A London Coroner has halted an inquest into the death of a carpenter after witnesses declared they would answer ‘no comment’ if called to testify. The witnesses have been advised by lawyers that any comments may be used in an open HSE investigation into their involvement in the death.

Coroner Dr Andrew Reid adjourned the hearing after declaring “It would not be appropriate and it is not in the interests of justice to proceed with evidence today on the basis that there are a number of witnesses who would not be in a position to give evidence that without, the court cannot determine the circumstances in which Mr Page’s death arose.”

The young carpenter died from asphyxiation caused by chest crush injuries when the boom of a crawler crane collapsed across his back in March 2009. The case will be reviewed by the Coroner in February 2010 with the possibility that the inquest will proceed later that year, depending upon HSE action.

CPS spokeswoman said they had: “considered a charge of corporate manslaughter against Harris Calnan Construction but found that it would not be possible to prove that the organisation was responsible for causing the death as is necessary for that offence. The CPS also considered a charge of gross negligence manslaughter against an employee but concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the suspect was grossly negligent.”

Comment: HSE lawyers believe that a health and safety prosecution should only precede an inquest in exceptional circumstances and delay in a CPS decision not to bring a manslaughter charge will not be ‘exceptional’. 

The arguments presented at this inquest illustrate why there is often significant delay between a death and the inquest being conclude. This does not serve the interests of the bereaved.

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