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UCATT HIGHLIGHT FAILINGS IN PROSECUTION SYSTEM

Delays in justice rise as construction fatality related convictions fall

Construction trades union UCATT has highlight the results of parliamentary questions which “reveal a sharp drop in convictions following the fatal accidents of construction workers” and “that when there is a prosecution there are worsening delays before they begin.”

The questions were tabled by Stephen Hepburn Jarrow MP who has previously taken an interest in construction industry deaths. Mr Hepburn said the figures reveal:

“there is something terribly wrong in how we are dealing with workplace accidents. From an already poor base we have seen a serious decline in conviction rates and an increase in delays before a prosecution even begins. This is causing human misery and the Government must not turn a blind eye to these failures.”

The answers were provided by Justin Tomlinson Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at the Department for Work and Pensions, who revealed that conviction rates following a fatal construction accident had fallen from 51% in 2007/8 to 35% in 2012/13.

Delays are getting worse

UCATT contrast the conviction rate fall with HSE research indicating “that in 70 per cent of construction deaths, management failures caused or contributed to the deaths” and a previous internal HSE audit which estimated that prosecutions should occur following 60 per cent of construction deaths.

Brian Rye, UCATT Acting General Secretary said:

“These aren’t meaningless figures these are human tragedies. Construction workers deserve to know why convictions are so low.”

The union believe that that the low conviction rates do not appear to be due to a high level of not guilty verdicts as in recent years the HSE have achieved an overall conviction rate of between 91%-95%.

UCATT state the questions reveal that since 2005 the average time between a fatal accident and a prosecution being approved was 751 days. It took even longer before a conviction occurred. However 30% of cases did not reach the prosecution stage until 3-4 years after the death.

A further question revealed that the length of time between a fatality and the start of a prosecution had further increased in the last five years. In 2014/15 the average number of days between a fatal accident and a prosecution had increased to 879 days.

Mr Rye added:

“The length of time between a fatal accident and a prosecution is far too long. Justice needs to be done but it must be done more quickly. The families who have lost a loved one should not have their lives put on hold for so long.”

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