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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 20:39 GMT
Constant protests secured trial
Simon Jones
Mr Jones was killed in a matter of seconds by the crane
Campaigners say the 50,000 fine incurred by Euromin Ltd following the death of Simon Jones marks a step forward for workplace safety in the UK. BBC News Online's David Schaffer examines the potential implications of Thursday's verdict.

Campaigners believe that without direct action and an expert legal team the case over Simon Jones' death would never have got to court.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also "failed Mr Jones", according to George Galloway MP.

Despite that, Mr Galloway says the fines in this case will "send shockwaves throughout British industry".

He agrees that without continuous protesting by the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign and Mr Jones' family, the death would have been "another statistic".

Mr Jones, from Banbury, Oxfordshire, died nearly four years ago, but according to his family's lawyer Louise Christian, there was always clear evidence to get the case to court.

'Explanations changed'

She told BBC News Online the CPS regularly changed its explanations as to why they would not prosecute, a claim the CPS disputes.

"The CPS claimed, for example, Euromin could not be held responsible for the accidental action of the crane driver," the partner at London firm Christian Fisher said.

On the day of Mr Jones' death on 24 April 1998, it was alleged the inexperienced crane operator had accidentally knocked a lever, which snapped the crane's loading jaws on his head.

Failures of involuntary manslaughter law
1987: Herald of Free Enterprise disaster - 187 lives lost - no prosecutions
1987: Kings Cross fire - 31 lives lost - no prosecutions
1988: Clapham rail disaster - 35 lives lost - no prosecutions
1997: Southall rail disaster - seven lives lost - Great Western Trains receive a record fine of 1.5m
1999: Ladbroke Grove rail disaster - 31 lives lost - charges still being considered
2000: Hatfield rail disaster - four lives lost - charges being considered

According to London's Centre for Corporate Accountability, bureaucracy often stands in the way of cases like this reaching court

Its director David Bergman said: "It is the failure of the criminal justice system to properly investigate and give proper prominence to the evidence, that stops this situation from improving."

The CPS stressed it was only because of "insufficiency of evidence" that delayed this case being sent to court.

Mr Bergman said there was a slight improvement to the system in 1998, around the time of Mr Jones' death, when the police, HSE and CPS agreed to liaise more closely.

But according to Mr Galloway there is a long way to go before satisfactory systems are put in place.

He said: "It is much more expensive to put in proper safety systems. There has been a culture where the businessman has been a law unto himself.

"But the critical mass of public opinion on this is changing that."

Protestors climbing the lighting towers at Euromin
Protestors scaled 100ft high lighting towers to close down Euromin
He said more resources are needed for the HSE, to provide more inspectors to monitor companies.

"What has also got to change is the fact the director of public prosecutions has always had a reluctance to prosecute in cases like these," said Mr Galloway.

The HSE was not willing to comment on the case, when BBC News Online contacted them.

'Encourage prosecutions'

Ms Christian said the case may encourage the CPS to consider prosecutions in cases like the Ladbroke Grove rail crash.

She added: "Hopefully it will send a very clear message that there will be prosecutions in cases where there are obvious lapses in safety."

Changes could be accelerated when government proposals to alter the law are implemented. This is expected in 2002.

The Home Office proposals are based on Law Commission recommendations, which call for the abolition of involuntary manslaughter, to be replaced with two offences, "reckless killing" and "killing by gross carelessness".

It will also consider the introduction of a new offence, "corporate killing".

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29 Nov 01 | England
Company fined over student's death
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