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Health & Safety Prosecution – Abuse of Process Ruling

News3rd July 2020

On 13 October 2019 a construction worker was tragically killed as a result of the structural collapse of a building that he (and others) were in the process of stripping and demolishing.

The significant building project had been contracted by the first Defendant company and then subcontracted through two subsequent Defendant companies.

It was believed that after negotiations and then laterly some discussion in open court that the HSE would not seek to prosecute the Directors of the two subcontracted companies. Sadly, the HSE changed its mind. Which in turn triggered an abuse argument before Portsmouth Crown Court.

The Learned Recorder of Portsmouth after full argument found that the Health and Safety Executive had indeed abused its powers; in that it had made an unequivocal (disputed by the HSE) offer not to prosecute, which was repeated within the Judge’s presence and in turn the director defendants had relied upon this offer to their detriment.

The case was properly stopped against the Directors.

This decision reconfirmed the rarity of succeeding in abuse hearings but endorses the view that early legal intervention and specialist regulatory representation are essential.

Phil Williams and Nicholas Cotter of 3 Paper Buildings represented the first director on the Indictment.