The family of a man who was crushed to death at work will make legal history today when it takes the Crown Prosecution Service to court claiming it failed to act. It is the first time that judicial review proceedings have been brought against the CPS in a case of alleged corporate manslaughter.
Simon Jones, 24, a Sussex University student, had been working in the hold of a ship at Shoreham Docks on 24 April 1998 when a crane grab crushed him to death. His job was to attach bags of cobblestones to hooks which had been welded to the inside of the grab. The cargo was to be lifted out of the hold by a crane owned and operated by Euromin.
Although the safety instruction of the crane manufacturer warned that it was not safe for anyone to be within the work area of the grab, the new welding arrangement meant that any worker doing Mr Jones job would have to put his head close to the grab. On this occasion, the jaws of the grab closed around Mr Jones's neck killing him.
Two days before he died, Mr Jones had been working as a refuse collector for the local council under contract to a local employment agency. He was claiming the jobseekers' allowance and the Employment Service insisted that he take any work offered to him. He had taken a day off sick and when he came back to work the agency asked him to start a new job at the docks. Two hours after arriving at the docks he was dead, his head partly severed. Immediately after the accident the crane driver and Euromin's general manager, James Martell, were arrested, and then released without charge.
Friends and relatives of hundreds of other employees who have died or been seriously injured at work joined last night in silent candle-lit vigils across the country to protest at the authorities' reluctance to prosecute those responsible.
Mr Jones's friend, Colin Chalmers, now a member of the Simon Jones Memorial Fund and one to those who took part in the vigil outside the High Court, said: "It is one of the most dangerous jobs anyone can do and Simon was given no training by the agency or the company."
If the family wins the judicial review, the Centre for Corporate Accountability, a campaign organisation, will call for an inquiry into CPS decision-making in relation to workplace deaths, along the lines of the Butler Inquiry into the CPS and deaths in police custody.
In the last 30 years there have been fewer than 10 charges of corporate manslaughter brought against companies. Only two workplace deaths have ever resulted in a conviction. Yet, last year alone, 258 workers were killed in sudden deaths at work.
David Bergman, the centre's director, said: "We are concerned that the decision by the CPS in this case indicates a systemic failure within the CPS to give proper consideration to prosecuting companies and company directors for the manslaughter of workers."
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