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Union pushes for speedier justice after site fatalities

26 Apr 17 The wheels of justice grind slowly. It takes an average of three years and four months for any sentence to be handed down after a workplace fatality. Campaigners are calling for action.

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has used a Freedom of Information request to discover that the average time between a workplace death and a conviction is 1,234 days.

Justice has been slow for years but seems to be getting worse; it was 1,206 days in 2009/10.

Unite says the delays are ‘shameful’ and has called on all political parties to make a commitment to hold a systemic review, to reduce the length of time between a workplace death and a conviction. It believes that workplace fatalities are being deprioritised by the legal system, since high profile criminal case get pushed through the system much more quickly.

Unite has released the figures in the run up to International Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday 28th April to highlight the delays in achieving justice following a workplace fatal accident.

The union is concerned that delays in securing a conviction could further increase due to pressures on the budgets of the public bodies concerned. For example, by 2020 the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) budget is set to be nearly half (46% down) of what it received in 2009/10.

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Construction industry fatalities seem to take even longer than average to get to court. Last year Labour MP Stephen Hepburn secured a parliamentary answer that revealed that the average time for a conviction following a fatal accident in the construction industry was 1,267 days.

Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “These figures are distressing. It is terrible to lose a loved one at work but then to have to wait for over three years before those responsible are brought to justice, dramatically increases and prolongs that agony.

 “Unite is calling on all political parties to commit to holding a major review following the general election and bring together all the agencies involved in the process to understand why these delays are occurring and then dramatically speed up the process.

 “The motto of International Workers’ Memorial Day is remember the dead and fight for the living. In fighting for the living, workers should be assured of a commitment to deliver workplace justice in a timely manner.”

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