£5m Warwickshire Firefighter Trial – Not Guilty Verdicts
A jury at Stafford Crown Court has returned not guilty verdicts on the two firefighters charged with manslaughter of 4 colleagues following a 7 week trial. The third accused was found not guilty at the close of the prosecution case on the directions of the judge following a submission of no case to answer. The deaths occurred during a fire at a food processing factory in Atherstone on Stour, Warwickshire in 2007.
Chris Humphreys, Solicitor for two of the firefighters charged with gross negligence manslaughter said today, ”This was the most ill-conceived and misguided prosecution and there now needs to be an investigation into the judgement and decision making of those who decided to bring this case to court and how Warwickshire police got this so badly wrong. In the meantime those involved should not be permitted to exercise their authority in bringing any other cases to court.
The police and prosecution have spent £5m of public money over a four and a half year period. They have failed to investigate that this fire was the result of an arson attack and that the factory in which four firefighters died was inherently dangerous and should have not been operational. It is unclear why no action has been taken against the company Wealmoor Limited, who owned the site. The site did not have planning permission and this had been ignored by Stratford upon Avon District Council.
There now needs to be an urgent investigation into the police operation and the role of the CPS Special Crimes Division which was at all times working under the directions of the DPP including into the withholding of disclosure to defence lawyers. A public enquiry into what caused the deaths is needed to give answers to the families of the four firefighters who died and to examine what public policy should be in relation to firefighting in the UK. Whilst these prosecutions were not successful, if the Crown maintains its stance on firefighting policy as expressed by its Expert in this case, firefighters will run the risk of prosecution every time they turn out.”
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Bus driver accused of driving without due care and attention
A bus driver was charged with driving without due care and attention after he was alleged to have struck another vehicle whilst turning a corner. The bus driver (a union member) was summonsed to Court following a complaint by the other driver to the Police. The Police had ignored members efforts the bus drivers’ efforts to supply them with a list of passengers who were prepared to act as a witness for him. Powell Spencer and Partners obtained statements from witnesses confirming that it had been the fault of the car driver who was attempting to get past the bus on the inside lane. The bus driver was found not guilty.
U-turn on decision to suspend taxi drivers licences
Three taxi drivers licences were suspended after being accused of verbal assault on taxi marshals. The marshals had been allowing only private hire cabs to wait at pickup points outside outside the towns busiest clubs and bars. The Council suspended the three members saying that they were not fit and proper to hold taxi licences. We represented the members at the initial hearing and successfully had them reinstated pending the full council hearing into the allegations. After a three month delay, the Council held a full hearing and the Council panel agreed that their licence should be reinstated.
Revenue Protection Officer accused of assault
A Revenue Protection Officer (a union member) at a London station was arrested following a allegation of assault by a passenger who had been challenged for travelling without a ticket. The member was arrested by British Transport Police and interviewed under caution. The Revenue Protection Officer was then suspended by his employer. We represented the union member at court and secured CCTV evidence, which showed that no assault had taken place.
Helicopter Examiner given conditional discharge
A senior helicopter test examiner originally charged with serious breaches of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) was eventually able to plead to a minor breach for which he received a conditional discharge by the court.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had charged the Captain with offences under Article 94(1) of the ANO including that he had acted in a way to ‘…intentionally deceive…’. Our trade union department took up the case resulting in the CAA withdrawing the serious charges and enabling the client to plead guilty to a technical breach of administrative requirements. No fine was imposed and the court gave a conditional discharge.
Special Effects Oscar Winner acquitted
The department successfully represented an award-winning Special Effects Supervisor prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive following the death of an assistant during the preparation of a blockbuster movie.
Cumbria train derailment
Chris Humphreys has led teams representing rail workers and fire fighters involved in enquiries following several major incidents including a train derailment at Lambrigg, Cumbria.
Court quashes senior RMT member’s conviction for tube picket line assault
In another recent case, Chris Humphreys represented a Senior RMT official who was accused of assault at a picket line.
Labour injured while working on a building site
The Department acts for several American Unions whose members work or visit the UK as cabin crew and pilots and come into contact with the legal system.
Captain of Thames Pleasure Cruiser accused if manslaughter
In another recent case, the department acted for the Captain of a Thames pleasure cruiser accused of manslaughter after a passenger fell overboard.