No prosecution over Alison Hume mineshaft death

Lawyer Alison Hume died after falling down a disused mineshaft. Picture: Paul Drury
Lawyer Alison Hume died after falling down a disused mineshaft. Picture: Paul Drury
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PROSECUTORS have concluded no-one should stand trial over the death of a mother who died after falling down a mineshaft.

The family of Alison Hume, 44, said the decision was “very disappointing and “upsetting”, and they plan to seek a review.

Picture: Paul Drury

Picture: Paul Drury

The solicitor fell down a 50ft pit in Galston, Ayrshire, five years ago but her rescue was halted on the grounds of health and safety.

Fire chief Paul Stewart decided equipment designed to save firefighters could not be used on members of the public.

The mother-of-two died after spending six hours down the damp shaft.

After a two-year probe, described as “complex and thorough”, the Crown Office found no-one should face criminal charges.

Ms Hume’s stepfather, Hugh Cowan, 71, of Ayr, said: “This is a very disappointing and upsetting outcome for the family.

“In view of comments in the fatal accident and government reports, we were fairly confident that some action would be taken to ensure something like this would never happen again.

“I will be requesting a review of the case and also seeking some legal advice with regard to any other options which may be open to us.

“As I do not yet have a copy of the decision, I am not entirely sure regarding the legal aspects.

“As far as I can understand, it revolves around the fact that the fire and rescue service are only bound to carry out rescues involving fires and vehicle accidents.”

He praised Sandy Dunn, who climbed into the shaft and spent six hours trying to comfort Ms Hume, for his “bravery and fortitude” and for refusing offers of a break from his superiors.

Mr Cowan said it was “an action our family will never forget”.

The Crown Office said: “Following a complex and thorough investigation in relation to the death of Alison Hume, including consideration of specific issues of concern raised by her family, Crown counsel considered that there was insufficient evidence that a crime had been committed to raise criminal proceedings at this time.”

Ms Hume, who left two teenage daughters, was brought to the surface by a police mountain rescue team.

She suffered a heart attack and died at Kilmarnock’s Crosshouse Hospital.

In November 2011, Sheriff Desmond Leslie ruled that Ms Hume could have survived if she had been lifted to the surface sooner.

He condemned Mr Stewart and Billy Thomson, senior officers with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue – which has since been merged into Fire Scotland – who halted her rescue.

Sheriff Leslie said they had a “fundamentalist adherence” to brigade health and safety policy and failed to take account of the urgent need to get Ms Hume up.

A spokesman for Fire Scotland said: “We are committed to learning the lessons from the fatal accident inquiry, Sheriff Leslie’s conclusions and the HM Inspectorate of Fire report.”

In the summer, Mr Stewart was promoted and handed a high-profile role in charge of overseeing safety at next year’s Commonwealth Games..