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Law and disorder


I was quick to identify with the phrase 'engineering judgement' as used in your reports of the Hatfield rail disaster, Nick Jeffries' article and your editorial (NCE last week).

On 31 January this year (the same day that the Hatfield trial began), I was found guilty of 'exposing an operative, not in my employment, to risk' following a fatality which occurred four years earlier while I working as a structural engineer.

The Criminal Prosecution Service and Health & Safety Executive pursue prosecutions under HSWA legislation as criminal cases which appear before a judge and jury. Yet civil actions for negligence are heard in a specialist court - the Technology & Construction Court.

During my 31 day trial, my overriding impression was that the court and jury simply did not understand the salient engineering issues and judgements involved.

I therefore concur with, and cannot overstate, Nick Jeffries' comments on the personal pressures during such circumstances.

All engineers would support sensible measures to improve safety on construction sites and in the wider community.

However, in my view, until the procedures and forum are fundamentally reassessed, the CPS/HSE are unlikely to achieve these goals and engineers remain at risk from misconceived prosecutions and the ordeals such as you report.

Lindsay Barr (M), lindsay@lindsaybarr. co. uk

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