Stur­geon urged to give work death fam­i­lies more le­gal power

The Herald on Sunday - - VOICES - By Paul Hutcheon

NICOLA Stur­geon has been urged to give the fam­i­lies of in­di­vid­u­als killed by an em­ployer’s gross neg­li­gence greater le­gal pow­ers af­ter it emerged she backed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in op­po­si­tion.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has said it will “con­sider” plans by Labour MSP Claire Baker to cre­ate new le­gal av­enues for the fam­i­lies of vic­tims of fa­tal work­place ac­ci­dents.

How­ever, doc­u­ments show that the First Min­is­ter and three serv­ing SNP Cabi­net Sec­re­taries – John Swin­ney, Michael Mathe­son and Roseanna Cun­ning­ham – sup­ported pro­pos­als for Holy­rood leg­is­la­tion back in 2006.

Ms Baker, a mem­ber of Scot­tish Labour leader Richard Leonard’s Shadow Cabi­net, last week un­veiled plans to amend the law on cul­pa­ble homi­cide.

Her con­sul­ta­tion stated that, in cases where in­di­vid­u­als caused death by reck­less­ness or gross neg­li­gence, it is “rel­a­tively easy” for the Crown Of­fice to se­cure a con­vic­tion.

But on oc­ca­sions where medium-sized or larger com­pa­nies cause a death she ar­gued that it re­mains “ex­tremely dif­fi­cult” to se­cure a con­vic­tion of cor­po­rate cul­pa­ble homi­cide.

She be­lieves firms, and their di­rec­tors, should be held ac­count­able for any wrong­do­ing.

“It is only right that, as well as the com­pany be­ing guilty, the in­di­vid­u­als whose ac­tion led to the com­pany’s guilt can be con­victed and sen­tenced ap­pro­pri­ately,” her doc­u­ment stated.

Her planned Bill comes 11 years af­ter the Cor­po­rate Man­slaugh­ter and Cor­po­rate Homi­cide Act was passed by MPs in 2007.

The leg­is­la­tion clar­i­fied the crim­i­nal li­a­bil­i­ties of com­pa­nies and, in cases where se­ri­ous health and safety fail­ures led to work­place fa­tal­i­ties, made prosecutions eas­ier. How­ever, crit­ics were un­der­whelmed as the leg­is­la­tion did not ap­ply to di­rec­tors per­son­ally.

Ms Baker’s con­sul­ta­tion said of the UK law: “The law of cul­pa­ble homi­cide has al­ways failed to have one clear set of rules that ap­ply to all wrong­do­ers, in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions alike. Many hoped that would be achieved by the 2007 Act but it has failed en­tirely in that ob­jec­tive.”

At the time that the UK pro­posal was un­der dis­cus­sion, for­mer Labour MSP Karen Gil­lon con­sulted on Scot­tish-only leg­is­la­tion in 2006.

Ms Gil­lon aban­doned the plan amid a le­gal wran­gle, but her far- reach­ing pro­pos­als, which are in line with what Ms Baker is back­ing, se­cured the sup­port of dozens of MSPs.

Fif­teen Na­tion­al­ists sup­ported Ms

First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon was sup­port­ive of pro­pos­als for leg­is­la­tion back in 2006

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