Letter: Recklessness at work

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report plans for the maximum sentence for motorists who kill in the course of dangerous or drunken driving to be raised to 10 years' imprisonment (17 July). The Home Secretary explains that this reflects the seriousness of the worst cases.

The number of people annually killed on the roads is of the same order as those killed at work or by commercial recklessness, 700 and 600 respectively. Reports of Health and Safety Executive studies have consistently shown that most of the deaths in the latter category result from economically triggered decisions and are avoidable. Nevertheless, since the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, came into force, more than 10,000 people have been killed at work or through commerce, yet there is on record only one case of a custodial sentence having resulted from a prosecution under the Act. That was in 1987, it did not involve a death and the sentence was suspended.

Public perception of commercially caused death is as 'accidental' and less culpable than road- traffic deaths yet the element of recklessness is often identical.

Yours faithfully,


Senior Lecturer in Law

Staffordshire University

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire