Sister’s plea over FAIs into workplace deaths

A WOMAN whose brother was electrocuted at work has told MSPs that the process of establishing fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) into workplace deaths must be speeded up.

Louise Adamson, whose brother Michael was electrocuted in an accident while working on a JJB store in Dundee. Picture: TSPL
Louise Adamson, whose brother Michael was electrocuted in an accident while working on a JJB store in Dundee. Picture: TSPL

Louise Taggart, a founder of the group Families Against Corporate Killers (Fack), said it was “wholly unacceptable” that relatives were waiting up to seven years after the death of a loved one just to be told that no FAI would take place.

Ms Taggart broke down in tears as she told members of the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee about her family’s experience following the death of her brother, Michael Adamson, in 2005.

Mitie Engineering Services (Edinburgh) were fined £300,000 after the 26-year-old electrician died while working on a JJB sports centre in Dundee.

Ms Taggart said a criminal trial had left her family “exhausted” and unable to go ahead with a FAI. However, she said other families were being left without any answers due to plea deals between defendants and prosecutors.

She said: “We have instances of families having to wait seven years before they find out an FAI isn’t going to take place. These delays of six, seven years are wholly unacceptable. Families need more answers more quickly and it needs to be more than just an update as to where we’re at.”

She added: “It tends to be that four or five years down the line, the Crown Office has come to a plea arrangement with the employer. You go into court, you hear the plea arrangement that’s been made. You don’t then get to hear from witnesses, you don’t get to see the documentation, you don’t get to see the photographic evidence. It bursts your bubble.

“You’ve waited this long, you think you’re going to find out all the facts and circumstances and you don’t.”

Ms Taggart called for FAIs to be allowed to progress before a criminal trial took place.

But Lord Cullen, who led a review of FAI legislation, said such a move would not be “wise”.

He said: “How much could usefully be achieved during that first initial phase?

“Even an explanation of how the deceased came to die might be relevant to the criminal prosecution. There’s always a danger that whatever is said creates a problem for the criminal prosecution if it is still ongoing. My answer would be that it’s better to have the criminal proceedings finished (first).”

MSPs are currently taking evidence on new legislation relating to FAIs which is making its way through parliament.