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CCA Press Releases

For Immediate Release

Challenges to HSE's Information Disclosure Policy

Moira Martin, the wife of David Martin, who was crushed to death in December 2000, is challenging the failure by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to provide proper reasons for its decision not to prosecute a company director over her husband's death.

If the challenge is successful, the HSE may have to change its current restrictive policy towards providing information to bereaved families.

This challenge, taken by solicitors from the Public Law Project, takes place at the same time as the Centre for Corporate Accountability is appealing against decisions by the HSE not to provide the CCA with information.

Challenge by Moira Martin
David Martin died when a 1.5 ton piece of steel - which was being lifted by a crane - came loose from lifting hooks which had no 'safety latches'. In May 2002, his employer, Service Welding Ltd, was fined £25,000 following an HSE prosecution.

Newcastle Crown court heard that prior to the death the company had been advised by its insurers to obtain these 'safety latches' but they had failed to do so. It was the absence of the latches - which cost just £5 each - that caused the death.

The HSE however did not prosecute the directors of the company who had overall responsibility for health and safety. The company has since gone into receivership; one of the directors has started up a new company, Patterson Ryan Wireworkers Ltd, based in Nescastle upon tyne.

Moira Martin (through the CCA) asked the HSE what investigations it had undertaken into the conduct of the directors and why they decided not to prosecute them.

In a series of letters the HSE refused to explain the decision, beyond commenting that there was no evidence of individual responsibility.

In its complaint to the ‘Information Review Panel' operated by the HSE, and comprising two senior HSE officials and one independent person - the Public Law Project has argued that the HSE both misinterpreted the law and misapplied its own disclosure policy when dealing with Mrs Martin’s enquiries.

Moira Martin said:

"My husband died in tragic circumstances. The HSE prosecuted the company, but has not given us any adequate explanation as to why they did not prosecute its directors. In my view the HSE should be willing to provide a bereaved family member like myself proper reasons why they have not prosecuted." said Moira Martin

David Bergman, Director of the CCA said:

"The HSE prides itself on its open government policy and in many
cases the HSE does not disappoint. However, the HSE's failure in the
case of Moira Martin to provide proper reasons is not a one-off. The
HSE consistently refuses to provide reasons to bereaved families as
to why it is not prosecuting senior company officers."

Challenge by the CCA
The CCA has also written to the HSE's Complaints Panel concerning a number of decisions where the HSE have refused to provide the CCA excerpts of HSE's "Enforcement Handbook" and ‘operational guidance’ which it produces for its inspectors

To download the letter sent to HSE's Director General, Click Here.

The CCA website has set up a new section that provides advice on HSE's policy on disclsoure of information, Click Here


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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