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The Herald (Scotland): U-turn on Brent oil deaths inquiry

The Herald (Scotland): U-turn on Brent oil deaths inquiry

“Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue died when they were exposed to hydrocarbon gases on the Brent Bravo platform on September 11, 2003. At Stonehaven Sheriff Court in March, Shell, the oil company, admitted three safety breaches which led to their deaths.”

Posted Wednesday 20 July 2005

GRAEME SMITH

Scotland’s senior law officer has overturned a decision not to hold a fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of two men on an oil platform.

Keith Moncrieff and Sean McCue died when they were exposed to hydrocarbon gases on the Brent Bravo platform on September 11, 2003.

At Stonehaven Sheriff Court in March, Shell, the oil company, admitted three safety breaches which led to their deaths.

Sheriff Patrick Davies said the firm was responsible for a “substantial catalogue of errors” which led to the tragedy and imposed a record £900,000 fine. Last month, the procurator-fiscal announced there would be no fatal accident inquiry into the deaths, infuriating offshore unions.

They claimed that because of Shell’s decision to plead guilty, much of the evidence in the case had never been made public and that an FAI could help prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

Yesterday Colin Boyd QC, the lord advocate, said he had reviewed the decision whether there should be an FAI.

“Crown counsel’s original decision took into account the significant inquiry that had already been made in the course of investigations leading to the successful prosecution of the employer at Stonehaven Sheriff Court in March 2005,” the Scottish Executive said in a statement.

“While fully understanding that approach, the lord advocate has concluded, on personal consideration of the case, that it is in the wider public interest for a fatal accident inquiry to be held.”

The news was welcomed by the OILC offshore union which had campaigned for an inquiry. “We appreciate that the staging of this inquiry will be an extremely difficult time for the families of Sean McCue and Keith Moncrieff,” said Jake Molloy, the union’s general secretary. “However, we hope it will bring final closure for them whilst answering the many questions that still surround the tragic events.”

He said there would be an article in the union’s publication, Blowout, which is scheduled for distribution this week, entitled A Million Reasons for an Inquiry. “This article sets out just some of the reasons why an inquiry should be held. In the article we suggest it would be appropriate so as to gauge how far the industry has improved since the last major inquiry, that of Lord Cullen. “Coming a few days after the announcement Lord Cullen was retiring, the news this inquiry is to be staged appears all the more appropriate.”

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