Escaping justice…….

The case of a worker who was fatally crushed on a construction site is the inspiration behind a new Bill aimed at preventing companies going into administration to escape punishment following a death or serious injury.
Labour MP Luciana Berger has tabled a Ten-minute Rule Bill to give health and safety inspectors the power to apply for a court order to freeze the assets, or parts thereof, of a company under investigation following a death or serious injury at work. The Bill has been prompted, in part, by the death of a member of Ms Berger’s Liverpool Wavertree constituency nearly five years ago.
Richard Mark Thornton died on 29 March 2007 when he was struck by a six-tonne steel column, which was being moved by a poorly-maintained 50-tonne crane, during the construction of a new floor on a warehouse at Wavertree Business Park.
The crane-hire firm, went into administration in December 2010, a few months prior to the case going to court. The firm pleaded guilty to health and safety failings, which contributed to Mr Thornton’s death, but was fined just £4500 with no costs, owing to its financial status.
After entering administration, the company was sold to another firm which resumed trading using the same equipment.
The Bill, which will be heard in the House of Commons on 8 February, seeks an end to the practice of companies – known as phoenix firms – opting for administration to avoid prosecution, or heavy fines, before starting up again as a similar business.
Commenting on her Bill, Ms Berger MP said: “Companies whose actions result in the death of a worker must be forced to take responsibility. If passed, my Bill will ensure that companies can’t become phoenix firms to escape justice.”
Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: “Every workplace death is a tragedy, leaving a family devastated. It is simply appalling that companies can cheat justice following the death of a worker by using creative accountancy and get away completely scot free.”
The Bill also builds on an Early Day Motion (EDM), introduced in May last year by Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, Steve Rotheram. The EDM called on the Government to introduce stronger legislation to prevent companies that “continue to avoid prosecutions and have fines reduced for committing health and safety offences [from] going into administration and then re-establishing their business using a slightly different name with the same premises and the same equipment.”

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