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Mystery of how Shell escaped Brent Bravo criminal prosecution

The Sunday Times article may go some way to illuminating the mystery of how Shell miraculously escaped criminal prosecution.

By John Donovan

An article published in Scotland by The Sunday Times may help to explain why the health and safety division of the Crown office and Procurator Fiscal Service decided not to prosecute Royal Dutch Shell for alleged criminal offences arising from an explosion on the Brent Bravo platform.

In 2005, Shell was fined a record £900,000 at Stonehaven Sheriff Court, for a series of safety failings on the platform which led to a gas leak inside the giant platform’s utility leg and the tragic deaths of two workers, Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue.

Former Shell International HSE Group Auditor, Bill Campbell, revealed that Shell had operated a “Touch F*** All” safety culture on the platform and that safety records had been falsified. He reported this to Malcolm Brinded, the then Managing Director of Shell Expro, who failed to take proper action. This was before the explosion.

Mr Campbell later courageously provided evidence, which resulted in Grampian Police conducting a long investigation into related alleged bribery and corruption of HSE officials by Shell. The police passed the case file to the Procurator Fiscal Service for a decision on whether to prosecute.

Mr Campbell was surprised when the Procurator Fiscal Service announced that it had dropped the case because there was insufficient evidence to justify a criminal prosecution. He was even more surprised to discover that NO witnesses were ever interviewed from the list he had provided to the Police. Neither witnesses from Shell or HSE.  Or indeed, the independent witnesses who could have provided corroboration.

Mr Campbell still maintains that there is an abundance of evidence provided by Shell employees and by HSE as a result of their internal investigation and through information released under the Freedom of Information Act. He remains utterly baffled why witness statements were not requested from the Procurator Fiscal by Crown Counsel.

The Sunday Times article may go some way to illuminating the mystery of how Shell miraculously escaped criminal prosecution.

It is alleged that Scottish prosecutors cherry-pick the easiest “slam dunk” cases. This would explain a 99% success rate. They allegedly do not pursue health and safety cases which are “slightly more difficult”.

Bill Campbell handed over a wealth of evidence, but for some reason, it was not properly followed up by the Procurator Fiscal, leaving Mr Campbell and apparently Grampion Police, mystified by the outcome.

The Sunday Times 5 February 2012

Lord advocate ‘takes only easy health and safety cases’

SCOTLAND’S top prosecutor has been accused of inflating the conviction rate in health and safety proceedings by only targeting so-called “slam dunk” cases where success is almost guaranteed.

Lord advocate Frank Mulholland has defended the claims which have been raised at Westminster, insisting every case placed before him will be taken on, regardless of difficulty.

Since the health and safety division of the Crown office and Procurator Fiscal Service was set up in 2009, 77 of the 78 completed cases have resulted in convictions – a success rate of 99%.

However, while appearing before the Commons Scottish affairs committee, he was accused by chairman Ian Davidson of cherry-picking the easiest cases.

The Scottish Labour MP asked whether, given the number of fatalities and reported serious accidents in Scotland, he thought he was taking on enough prosecutions.

Davidson said: “There’s a chance they are not pursuing the cases which are slightly more difficult. So paradoxically, this is one situation where having a lower success rate is possibly better.

“Our initial suspicion is they are restrained in terms of manpower and therefore they are only pursuing prosecution in those cases which we describe as slam dunk. That would worry us quite a bit.

“If they are not being passed on to him, the question is whether they are being filtered out at an earlier stage in the process before they get to him. It may be that those who are passing them on to him are taking too cautious a view of what might be prosecutable.”

He added: “We have been worried for some time about the high rate of health and safety-related deaths and serious injuries in Scotland. There are more people in agriculture, quarrying, construction, but that didn’t explain all of it.

“If someone is getting a 1Wlo success rate with prosecutions, then it potentially means they are only taking ones where they are.absolutely certain of a success. Our concern is that there is a filter which removes difficult cases.”

There has been a number of high-profile health and safety prosecutions in Scotland in recent years, including the Stockline Plastics explosion in Glasgow’s Maryhill in 2004 which claimed nine lives.

Operators ICL Plastics and ICL Tech were fined £400,0000 after admitting four charges. The High Court in Glasgow, heard that the leaking pipework that caused the explosion could have been replaced for just £405.

Utility firm Transco was fined a record £15m after being convicted on a charge arising from an explosion which killed four people. Andrew and Janette Findlay and their children Stacey, 13, and Daryl, 11, died in the explosion in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, in December 1999.

Transco was found guilty after a six-month trial in Edinburgh of breaching health and safety laws.

A Crown Office spokesman rejected the suggestions.

He said: “If we have sufficient admissible, credible and reliable evidence, and it is in the public interest to prosecute, then we will prosecute.

“The excellent record of the health and safety division is due solely to the diligence and expertise of our prosecutors, who work extremely hard to secure guilty pleas and convictions in the most complex of cases.

“The lord advocate made the committee aware that 219 eases had been reported to the health and safety division since its inception. Of those, 78 have been prosecuted and 77 have resulted in convictions. There are 116 live cases under consideration for which no decision has been taken.

“Ten cases have resulted in a Fatal Accident Inquiry. No proceedings have been taken in 15 cases. In six of those cases proceedings could not have been taken because the company was no longer trading.

“In another five cases proceedings could not have been taken because there was insufficient evidence in law.”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmscotaf/uc1344-vii/uc134401.htm

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