More health and safety prosecutions will take place before Inquest after changes to a key agreement between those who investigate and prosecute work-related deaths in England and Wales came into effect.
The alterations to the Work-Related Deaths Protocol (WRDP), which took effect on 1 October 2011, should mean that some prosecutions will see a quicker resolution. Prior to this, only in exceptional circumstances would a case be taken before an Inquest by regulators other than the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Health and Safety offences are usually only brought at this stage if they are being tried in connection with manslaughter related charges.
Now, where manslaughter or homicide charges are not relevant, the revised protocol will allow a health and safety prosecution before an Inquest – if it is considered appropriate and in the interest of justice.
The changes were announced by the Work Related Deaths National Liaison Committee (NLC) and are supported by the Coroners’ Society. The NLC was set up in 1998 and aims to improve the communication and collaborative working between all members when involved with a work-related death. Members currently include, amongst others, the CPS, the Health and Safety Executive, the British Transport Police and Local Authorities. Richard Daniels, Chair of the NLC, said:
"All signatories are committed to seeking justice for bereaved family members, when a work-related death has occurred and someone should be held to account. The change will help us deliver this justice more effectively and sooner in less complex cases.
"The NLC has worked closely with the Coroners’ Society to agree the changes and they support this swifter resolution of prosecutions in some cases. We also welcome the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association as formal signatories of the revised protocol."
It is worth noting that the changes are not mandatory and it will be up to each signatory organisation to decide how they will implement it.
Please click here for full text of the WRDP and the protocol appears to bring the system in England and Wales more in line with that currently in place in Scotland where Fatal Accident Inquiries will follow a health and safety prosecution and not precede it (Please click here to view)