Letter: Workplace deaths

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report "Dozens of firms `escape corporate killings charges' " (29 November) raises serious questions about fairness and equality within the criminal justice system.

In the past, allegations of discrimination have tended to focus on gender and race, yet what Gary Slapper's study confirms is that the system's refusal to properly investigate and prosecute companies is an even more endemic form of bias.

Since 1998, the police have been involved in the investigation of workplace deaths, but they receive no training in the investigation of what may be very large corporations. The Crown Prosecution Service also appears to prefer to blame a worker whose conduct might have been the immediate cause of the death, rather than a director who has established or implemented (or failed to establish or implement) policies in a grossly negligent manner.

Furthermore, not only, do 89 per cent of major injuries remain uninvestigated, but the Heath and Safety Executive - in the cases it does investigate - never considers whether a company has acted recklessly, so justifying a prosecution for corporate grievous bodily harm.

Unless the Government undertakes a proper review of the way workplace deaths and injuries are investigated and prosecuted, this country will continue to have a two-track system of justice, with companies being beyond the law.

DAVID BERGMAN

Director

Centre for Corporate Accountability

London NW5

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