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Investigating Deaths at Work

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Presentation on theme: "Investigating Deaths at Work"— Presentation transcript:

1 Investigating Deaths at Work
Richard Boland H.M. Principal Inspector Health and Safety Executive

2 The presentation will cover:
How work related deaths are investigated; The protocol for liaison between HSE, the Police and CPS; How the arrangements work in practice – strengths and weaknesses; Some thoughts for the future; Questions and discussion.

3 The Protocol covers: Principles for effective liaison between the HSE, Police forces and the CPS in relation to work related deaths in England and Wales; Incidents where evidence indicates that a crime of manslaughter or corporate manslaughter may have been committed.

Statutory body responsible for the enforcement of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA 1974) and related legislation, with a view to securing the health, safety and welfare of others, principally the public. The HSE cannot investigate or prosecute for general criminal offences, such as manslaughter.

5 THE POLICE Police forces have responsibility for investigating crimes in general and recommend prosecution of offenders to the CPS. The Police also have an interest in establishing the circumstances surrounding a work related death in order to assist the Coroner’s Inquest.

6 THE CPS The CPS review evidence in relation to manslaughter and decide if there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and if so, whether a prosecution is justified in the public interest.

7 Principles underlying the Code:
The Police will conduct an investigation where there is an indication of manslaughter (or another serious general criminal offence); HSE will also investigate under HSWA 1974 and pass information suggesting manslaughter on to the Police, or where appropriate the CPS;

8 The Code cont… The decision to prosecute for manslaughter rests with the CPS. The decision to prosecute under health and safety legislation rests with HSE. Both take full account of the criteria set down in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and prosecution decisions are coordinated between the CPS and HSE; Bereaved families and witnesses will be kept suitably informed.

9 In Practice: A Police detective of supervisory rank will attend the scene of all work related deaths. The Police investigation is usually led by a Detective Sergeant who leads a team of Detectives; An inspector from HSE will attend the scene of all work related deaths. The HSE investigation will usually be led by a Principal inspector who leads a team of health and safety Inspectors.

10 The Police investigation:
The Police make an initial assessment as to whether the circumstances might justify a charge of manslaughter or other serious general criminal offences; The Police will lead the investigation when there is evidence or a suspicion of deliberate intent or gross negligence or recklessness on the part of an individual or company rather than human error or carelessness;

11 The Police investigation cont…
HSE provide technical support to the Police, and continue to investigate matters relating to possible breaches of health and safety law; Both agree arrangements for keeping relatives informed and handling the media; An Inquest will not be held until the CPS have made a recommendation on prosecution for manslaughter.

12 The HSE investigation Where the Police decide that a charge of manslaughter cannot be justified, HSE will continue with its own investigation; The Police will provide local support to the HSE investigation;

13 The HSE investigation cont..
If new information comes to light indicating that an offence of manslaughter may have been committed this evidence is immediately referred to the Police; If manslaughter charges are ruled out, an Inquest will be heard before a decision is taken by HSE on whether to proceed with a prosecution under health and safety legislation;

14 The HSE investigation cont..
The Coroner can either adjourn an Inquest if they wish to refer matters to the Police for further investigation, or they can pass the papers to the CPS for further consideration after the Inquest has concluded.

15 Strengths of the system:
The Police bring additional resources and expertise, for example forensic investigation, photographing, recording and cataloguing evidence, and in carrying out witness interviews and interviews under caution;

16 Strengths of the system cont..
The Police and CPS receive expert input from HSE inspectors, for example, on industrial processes and practice, corporate structure and management arrangements and duties under health and safety law; Close liaison means that there is ample opportunity for the investigation to be referred back to the Police as new evidence emerges.

17 Challenges to be overcome:
Degree of Police familiarity with the protocol; Degree of Police familiarity with investigations involving corporate wrong doing; Difficulty in establishing ‘gross negligence’ on the part of a corporate body, particularly when the Directors are distant from the day to day decision making on the shop floor;

18 Challenges to be overcome cont…
Danger of blaming first line supervisors or those decision makers most closely involved with the incident itself; Tendency for delay if the case is repeatedly referred to the Police/CPS for further consideration; Shortage of experts who can give evidence on the degree of negligence shown by an individual or company.

19 Some thoughts for the future:
We need clarity in law in relation to crimes concerning corporate manslaughter and gross negligence; Police investigators will need expertise in corporate practice and management arrangements for securing health and safety at work;

20 Some thoughts for the future cont…
Both the Police and HSE should continue to investigate deaths at work as both bring specialist expertise, skills and knowledge; Both agencies need to give a high priority to keeping families and next of kin informed throughout the investigation, and to ensuring that the investigation moves forward to a swift conclusion.

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