Legionnaires’ case to go for retrial

Following a 10-week trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury failed to reach a verdict on seven charges of manslaughter against Gillian Beckingham caused by the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease in July and August 2002. The jury found her guilty of breaching the Health & Safety Act following the ending of a maintenance contract on an air-conditioning system serving the Forum 28 arts complex in Barrow-in-Furness. A retrial has been called. Alistair Webster QC, prosecuting, said in court, ‘Careful consideration has been given at a senior level within the Crown Prosecution Service, and we are of the view that the public interest requires a retrial in this case.’ Sentencing on on the breach of health-and-safety laws has been deferred until after the retrial. Barrow Borough Council, which faced the same charges as Gillian Beckingham was found not guilty on the directions of the judge. The Honourable Mr Justice David Poole said in court, ‘Members of the jury, for reasons of law which I need not elaborate at this stage, I have ruled that Barrow Borough Council, which consists, as I remind you, of its elected leader and its councillors, is not guilty of the charges of manslaughter on this indictment.’ The case is based on a maintenance contract for a cooling tower servicing the air-conditioning system being cancelled, shortly after which an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease began. There were about 200 cases, with seven deaths. It is believed that cancelling the contract saved the council about £3000.

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