The Stoke on Trent Sentinel have reported that:
MANSLAUGHTER charges may be brought against a company after three men died in an outbreak died of legionnaire’s disease in Stoke-on-Trent.
Richard Griffin, of Westbury Park, 79-year-old William Hammersley, of Chesterton and Harry Cadman, aged 71, of Stoke-on-Trent, all died after being struck down with the disease which was linked to Fenton discount warehouse JTF.
A further 18 people needed hospital treatment following the outbreak of summer 2012.
Now evidence gathered by Stoke-on-Trent City Council for a health and safety prosecution against the company has been passed onto Staffordshire Police.
If officers feel there is a strong enough case for the more serious charges of manslaughter, or corporate manslaughter, they may take over the case.
But the families of the victims have now been waiting more than two years for justice.
Speaking at a pre-inquest review into the deaths at the North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court yesterday, Mr Griffin’s daughter’s partner, Peter Eaton, said: “It just seems to be taking a long time.”
Barrister, Bernard Thorogood, representing the council, said a case involving three deaths would take some time to bring to court.
He said: “For this investigation which related to the loss of three lives and 18 serious illnesses I am sure it will seem to the family especially to be taking a long time but I can say from experience that we are certainly not anywhere behind with this prosecution.
“When I came into the case a short while ago I couldn’t believe how much had been done in two years.”
Mr Thorogood said the information could be in the hands of the police for several months.
He said: “The local authority has reached a position with the investigation where we feel prosecution is justified.
“However my advice has been that before any steps are taken in that respect the police out to have the option to consider the position as we have identified it.
“I’m not suggesting there should be a decision by police to take action, we have simply asked for police to see the material in case some of it is material that could concern them.”
Senior coroner Ian Smith asked if the police would look into a charge of corporate manslaughter.
Mr Thorogood added: “That’s the sort of charge the police would be concerned with but the local authority would be concerned with health and safety charges.”
JTF were represented at the hearing in Hartshill by Nick Gianferrari, a solicitor for Manchester-based firm BLM.
He said: “I think our concern with regards this review was where was this going. We had been told by the council we were to be prosecuted but no action was forthcoming.”
Mr Smith adjourned the hearing to be resumed on March 23.
He said: “Looking at this from the police’s point of view if they are suddenly handed a bundle of documents on a matter as complex as this it would have to be taken to a higher level.
“That would then go on to the CPS and it would almost certainly then go to the special prosecution in York. And the matter would then receive a decision – either we will prosecute or we will not.”
He added: “The family are concerned by how long this matter is taking but I am stuck because I’m waiting for other people to do their business before I can deal with this matter.”