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July 8, 2009

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Specialists to prosecute H and S cases in Scotland

Specialist prosecutors are now officially leading the investigation and

prosecution of health and safety cases across Scotland, according to

the solicitor general, Frank Mulholland QC.

Procurators Fiscal in the new Crown Office specialist Health and Safety Division have started to advise, support and give direction from the very earliest stages of investigations.

The division has established three dedicated units in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which will act on reports from the HSE, local authorities, the police and other agencies involved in health and safety cases, using the combined expertise of the specialists to identify unlawful practice and bring those who breach health and safety law to justice. It will have eight specialist prosecutors in a team of 16.

The new unit will lead the investigation of several high-profile cases, including the Super Puma helicopter crash in the North Sea on 1 April 2009, in which 16 men died, and the loss of the tug Flying Phantom while towing a vessel on the River Clyde on 19 December 2007, which resulted in three deaths.

Announcing the official launch of the new division, Mr Mulholland said: “The reports we receive from HSE, local authorities and other agencies cover a wide range of problems and the creation of our new specialist division will help ensure we build on our existing expertise to deal with the complex issues that can arise in health and safety investigations.”

Elaine Taylor, head of the new health and safety division, said: “While we investigate all cases thoroughly, some, such as the recent Super Puma tragedy, are particularly high-profile and complex, with unique challenges for investigators and prosecutors. We anticipate that cases like this will benefit particularly from the new division and its specialist teams.”

She added that the team will have a dedicated member of staff from the Victim Information and Advice Service to keep families informed about the progress of cases.

Paul Stollard, regional director of the HSE, welcomed the new division, saying: “Despite recent statistics showing that the number of work-related fatalities in Scotland is at a record low, there is still a worrying number of serious workplace accidents taking place that are entirely preventable.”

He concluded: “By building on the close working relationship that already exists between HSE and the Procurator Fiscal’s office, we can ensure those responsible for fatalities and major injuries in the workplace are held to account so that further incidents can be avoided.”

One of the first cases to be taken by specialist prosecutors in Scotland was the prosecution of Belcher Foods.

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