How do they do it? What criteria of calculation do judges use to determine the “punishment” of employers whose criminal breaches of health and safety law lead to the death of an employee?
Lord Uist, in fining the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) £54,000 for its role in the death of firefighter Ewan Williamson, 35, (Your report, 21 March) outlined his criteria: “This case, which involves an isolated failing, falls very much at the lower end of the scale of criminal culpability.
“There has been a prompt acceptance of responsibility and co-operation of the highest degree.”
However, he appears to marginalise the fact that the “lower end of the scale of criminal culpability” reflected serious and dangerous breaches of health and safety law that directly contributed to the avoidable death of Mr Williamson.
Furthermore, the “prompt acceptance of responsibility” took six years, and the “co-operation of the highest degree” got “better” the nearer the date of the trial.
When cases of profound negligence, criminality and blasé but calamitous breaches of health and safety law enter the legal world, injustice can readily follow: drivers who kill “endure” community service; murder becomes manslaughter and thugs are “punished” with single-figure prison sentences; assault morphs into shoplifting and aspiring “hard men” are consequently compelled to sweep a street.
Faced with those examples students of the philosophical foundations of Scotland’s legal system might anxiously conclude that the system is morally emaciated – and therefore prone to produce outcomes reflecting profound and offensive injustice.