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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Gas deaths charge dropped
Larkhall explosion
The Findlay's home was devastated by the blast
Appeal court judges have thrown out a culpable homicide charge brought against gas pipeline firm Transco following the deaths of a family of four.

It was the first time in Scottish legal history that a charge of corporate killing had been brought against a company.

However, in a ruling at the appeal court in Edinburgh, judges said the charge was "irrelevant".

Transco was charged following the deaths of Andrew Findlay, 34, his wife Janette, 36, and their children Stacey, 13, and Daryl, 11, in a gas blast at their home in Carlisle Road, Larkhall, Lanarkshire, in December 1999.

It still faces charges against the Health and Safety Act which carry an unlimited fine.

Although the decision today is extremely welcome we are still very much affected by what was a tragedy for the family concerned
Paul Wade
solicitor for Transco

The indictment for culpable homicide followed a lengthy investigation by the Lanarkshire Area Procurator Fiscal, with assistance from a specialist team of officers from Strathclyde Police.

The Crown alleged that Transco has shown "a complete and utter disregard for the safety of the public" and particularly that of the couple and their children.

The company has been accused of failing to properly manage the maintenance, inspection or replacement of ductile iron pipes.

The Crown said information on the gas pipe which passed through the garden at the family's home was inaccurate and incomplete.

It has also been accused of failing to properly investigate reports of gas escapes from the main in Carlisle Road.

The Crown alleged that Transco had used the main to distribute gas to homes in the street when it was "extensively corroded".

Findlay children
Stacey and Daryl Findlay
Lawyers for Transco had initially challenged the culpable homicide charge at a hearing before Lord Carloway.

But on 21 March the judge rejected the arguments put forward by Transco's counsel, Michael Jones QC, that the charge was both incompetent and irrelevant.

Mr Jones argued that for a charge of culpable homicide to be relevant against a corporation it was necessary to identify a person or persons who is "the directing mind" of the company.

Lord Carloway said: "It may well be that in England there is a need to identify a particular person who could, if charged, also have been guilty of manslaughter, before a company can be found to have committed that crime.

"It is not a requirement under the Scots law of culpable homicide."

The judge said there was no reason in principle why the company should not be guilty of the crime.

Written decision

However, Transco's lawyers appealed against Lord Carloway's ruling and challenged it before the appeal court.

Lord MacLean, sitting with Lord Osborne and Lord Hamilton, heard nine days of legal argument.

In a brief ruling, Lord MacLean said: "The court is unanimously of the opinion that this indictment in its first alternative (the culpable homicide charge) is irrelevant."

The judges will issue a written decision at a later date.

Speaking afterwards, Paul Wade, solicitor for Transco, said: "Although the decision today is extremely welcome we are still very much affected by what was a tragedy for the family concerned."

The Crown Officve said it would study the ruling and this "does not affect the alternative statutory charge made against Transco PLC or any resulting penalties following conviction ".

Transco faces court over deaths
28 Feb 02  |  Scotland
House blast victims named
22 Dec 99  |  Scotland
Pictures from the Larkhall blast
23 Dec 99  |  Scotland

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