An agency of the Ministry of Defence was given a formal Crown Censure by the HSE on 21 February 2011 in relation to the death of Terry Jupp in 2002. The censure followed an inquest carried out in 2010 – eight years after Mr Jupp’s death.
Terry Jupp was part of a British-American team experimenting with homemade bombs that might be used by terrorists. He was employed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and on 14 August 2002 was conducting classified tests at a site in Shoeburyness, operated by the MOD and QinetiQ Ltd.
During the tests, a compound that Mr Jupp had been experimenting on ignited, injuring Mr Jupp and causing him to suffer 85% burns from which he later died. By accepting the censure, the MOD agency accepted that there had been health and safety failings. Risk assessments had not adequately addressed the risk of ignition or explosion, despite the risks of explosive compounds being clearly foreseeable. In addition, Mr Jupp and his colleague were not wearing adequate personal protective equipment and the inquest in 2010 heard that authorisation had not been given to mix the substances which caused the explosion.
In 2005, two of Mr Jupp’s managers were charged with manslaughter in relation to the incident and brought before the Old Bailey. The charge against one man was thrown out due to insufficient evidence. The second man denied the charge against him and the case dragged on for years before being abandoned by the Crown following a review of the case by the Attorney General.
In a statement, the HSE highlighted that Dstl had adequate safety procedures but that the procedures were simply not followed at the time of the incident. While the nature of the case contributed to the delay of the inquest and censure, this case – and the recent prosecution of Network Rail for the Potter Bar derailment – both serve as a reminder that regulatory action may be taken many years after the event.