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Top award for HSE legal eagles

Date:
27 November 2014

The Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency (EA) have been presented with a top award at the recent Annual GLS Prosecutors Conference. 

The Prosecutors’ Convention Team of the Year Award 2014 was presented to the legal teams from both organisations by the Attorney General, Rt. Hon. Jeremy Wright, QC MP for the prosecution of Sellafield Limited in 2013. 

The award recognises the successes and strengths of prosecutors. It was presented to Sam Tiger, an enforcement lawyer with HSE and David Rees, a principal solicitor with EA. Also playing a key role in the success was superintending inspector, Ian Barlow, head of Transport Inspection and Enforcement for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). 

Peter McNaught, legal adviser to HSE, said: “This is a great tribute to the excellent team working between HSE, ONR and EA in the Sellafield case. It is also particularly pleasing that two other cases involving HSE were nominated for the award.”

Entries were required to demonstrate achievement in any or all of the following areas; early identification of overlapping interests, innovation and flexibility of approach, efficient use of resources, identification of best practice or lessons to be learned and enhanced public confidence in the prosecuting departments. 

There were nine entries and five of those were shortlisted. Two further teams involving HSE were shortlisted: HSE and BIS Criminal Enforcement, for the prosecution of Aztech BA Ltd and Boyle & Russell, and HSE and EA, for the prosecution of Rolls-Royce Marine Power Operations Ltd.

HSE and EA’s winning team comprised investigators, lawyers and clerks from both regulators, who worked together to successfully prosecute Sellafield Limited. 

The case arose from the discovery of four bags of radioactive waste, wrongly classified as exempt waste and disposed of by Sellafield Limited in an ordinary landfill site. Investigators from ONR (at the time an agency of HSE) and EA jointly investigated, building a file of evidence, which was considered by each regulator’s lawyer for offences arising within their respective regulatory regimes.

Once decisions had been made to prosecute, counsel was jointly instructed, and one prosecution was launched, comprising seven offences alleged by HSE and EA. 

In February 2013, the company pleaded guilty to all offences, and was committed to the Crown court for sentence. Carlisle Crown court imposed a fine of £100,000 for each of the seven offences. 

Sellafield Limited appealed the sentence but it was upheld by the Court of Appeal in January 2014 in what is considered to be a landmark judgment, which changed the landscape for the sentencing of very large companies. The Award acknowledged the strengths of the HSE/EA team, in particular the close joint working and liaison, which had brought the case to a successful conclusion, and the enhanced public confidence that the Court of Appeal’s ruling would bring about.

Notes to Editors 

1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk 

2. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

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