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Press Release

Information Note

Challenge against CPS failure to prosecute Council for manslaughter starts Tuesday 18 March 2003

The High Court begins a two day hearing on whether a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Salford City Council, and/or a careworker, for the manslaughter of a 30 year old man in the Council’s care, was lawful.

The case is being brought by the Brenda Rowley, the mother of Malcolm Rowley who died in July 1998. Her solicitor is Karen Ashton of Tyndallwoods solicitors.

It is the first time that a challenge has ever been made against the CPS concerning a failure to prosecute a council for manslaughter,

The case - R (on the application of Brenda Rowley) v DPP (ref: C0/2253/2002) - starts at 10 am on Tuesday 18 March 2003 at the High Court in London

See below for details of the facts of the case

Contact Details

To contact Karen Asthon at Tyndallwoods - 0121 243 3139

To contact the CCA - 0207 490 4494

Brief Details of Case
Malcom Rowley, who had severe learning and physical disabilities and lived in a residential care home run by Salford City Council, drowned on 18 July 1998 when he was left unattended in a bath. He was unable to sit in a bath without assistance and had no capacity for self rescue.

The death was investigated by both the HSE and the police. In October 1999, she was informed that there was to be no manslaughter prosecution.
An inquest then took place in December and returned a verdict of ‘accidental death contributed to be neglect’. Brenda Rowley felt that the inquest left unanswered some important questions about the precise circumstances of Malcolm’s death and the role of the Council.

In February 2000, the CPS wrote to Brenda Rowley informing her that its decision had not changed. The CPS letter placed heavy reliance on the fact that ‘corporate failures’ played a ‘significant part’ in her son’s death, but stated that issues concerned with the Council’s responsibilities are ‘matters … the Health and Safety Executive are considering’.

Brenda Rowley sought advice from the CCA who assisted her in drafting a letter requesting that there be proper consideration of charges being brought against senior Council employees, and questioning whether the correct legal test was being applied.

The CPS reviewed its decision but in July 2000 gave its third decision that a manslaughter prosecution was still not appropriate.

Salford City Council subsequently pleaded guilty to two health and safety offences and were fined a total of £115,000.

Brenda Rowley then sent the CPS new evidence which had come to light – in particular information about a previous incident of a near drowning of a resident in another care home (which had been contracted by the Local Authority to provide care) prior to Malcolm’s death.

The CPS again reviewed its decision but for the fourth time concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the Council or any individual for manslaughter.

Brenda Rowley then contacted Tyndallwoods solicitors who, after further correspondence with the CPS, issued judicial review proceedings against the CPS concerning its failure to prosecute the Council or a careworker for manslaughter.

This case raises important issues as to whether the CPS is applying the test of manslaughter correctly in dealing with work-related deaths and what duty is upon the CPS to ensure the police undertake a full investigation into a company prior to it making a decision whether or not to prosecute.

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Notes to Editors

  1. The Centre for Corporate Accountability is an independent nonprofit advice, research and lobbying group at the forefront of seeking to ensure that health and safety law is properly enforced and that deaths and injuries resulting from corporate activities are subject to adequate criminal investigations, and, where appropriate, prosecution and effective sanctions. It's charitable activities are funded by Joseph Rowntrees Charitable Trust.

    The Centre runs a Work Related Death Advice Service

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Page last updated on November 22, 2003