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SWIFTER JUSTICE FOR BEREAVED FAMILIES COMES CLOSER

Death at work rule change makes prosecutions prior to inquest more likely

The Work Related Deaths Protocol (WRD) was introduced in 1998 and governs how HSE, the Police and others manage the investigation of work related deaths.

The protocol is overseen by a National Liaison Committee (NLC) comprising representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service, Police, HSE the Local Government Association and others. Separate arrangements exist for Scotland under the oversight of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services.

H&S prosecution no longer required to await inquest outcome

The NLC has been considering the chronology of criminal proceedings in health and safety cases in relation to the coroner’s inquest. It has now been agreed to change the protocol to read:

‘Where the relevant enforcing authority have completed an investigation, they will consider whether it is appropriate to charge any health and safety offence at that stage, or to await the result of the coroner’s inquest before making that decision.

In making the decision they will consult as appropriate with the police, CPS, coroner, deceased’s family and any other person who may have a legitimate interest’.

Benefits of the change include: 

  • a significant reduction in current delays in some cases before criminal proceedings are commenced;
  • securing swifter justice for bereaved family members;
  • reducing opportunities for applications to stay criminal proceedings as an abuse of process, because of delays;
  • resolving some of the legal disclosure issues relating to inquests; and
  • potential savings for the coroners’ service, in cases where legal proceedings have already been taken ahead of an inquest.

Facilitating this change in the potential order of coroners’ inquests and health and safety prosecutions is to be permissive not mandatory. Decisions will be made on a case by case basis and not as a general rule to always have health and safety prosecutions proceed the inquest. The finalised protocol should be published on the HSE Website for 1 October 2011.

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One Response to “SWIFTER JUSTICE FOR BEREAVED FAMILIES COMES CLOSER”

  1. CROWN PROSECUTION ERRED ON MANSLAUGHER DECISION | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] and atrocious failures in their case, but the DPP needs to go further in ensuring the way all work-related deaths are handled is vastly improved – in speed, in the way families are treated, and especially that […]