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Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire, Senior Partner with Thompsons Solicitors has warned that the law is failing thousands of workers killed or maimed at work.

And he told the audience at the International Workers' Memorial Day rally in George Square in Glasgow on Monday April 28 that reviews of the Scottish legal system currently underway show little signs of addressing the problem on behalf of the victims or their families.

Mr Maguire said: "The statistics on Health and Safety are there for all to see and they make very disturbing reading.

"If we consider the years from 2001-2002 through to 2006-2007, the number of fatalities each year were, respectively, 28, 27, 12, 33, 24 and 24.

"The statistics for 2007-2008 are expected to be the same if not higher. If we look at major injuries, these amount to a staggering 2,702 for the year 2006-2007.

"If we also have regard to statistics of the legacy of failure to attend to Health and Safety in the past there are around 150 cases of fatal mesothelioma cases since we last spoke at the Workers' Memorial Day Rally on 28 April 2007.

"What the statistics do not tell us is the human tragedy in each individual case.

"I was recently at a widow's house and walked through the gate and saw two bikes and a football on the lawn and when I entered the house there was a 14 month old child.

"After this speech, I am due to see the family of a man who was a grandfather and father. One of the man's grandchildren wrote a very poignant letter to the local paper. It talks about the loving relationship between himself, his brother and his grandfather, and how much they enjoyed going to football, getting season tickets and swimming.

"It should not be me that goes through the garden gate, or sees that family. It should be the father coming home to see his young children, play football and take them to the park for their bike ride, or the grandfather coming in to take his grandchildren away for the day.

"So what is the law doing or not doing about all of this?

"There is a Civil Courts Review taking place, submission to which go on for around 130 pages, along with a good number of appendices. Not once does it mention 'life' or 'death' or 'right', yet much is said about commercial courts and costs. We must have a civil courts system which has at its core respect for the sanctity of human life.

"There is a Fatal Accident and Sudden Deaths Inquiries Act review going on. The case of Karen Thomson whose partner was killed when the tailgate of the bread van was unloading crashed onto him, is one where we had to take a Judicial Review to have the Fatal Accident Inquiry in the first place.

"Fatal Accident Inquiries should be heard in the highest court of our land, the Court of Session, not the Sheriff Court. Their recommendations should not be capable of being ignored as they can be at present. They should and must have real effect.

"The Health and Safety Executive should be properly resourced, not caught up in administration but out in the field doing the investigations, issuing prohibition and improvement notices and taking companies to court when required.

"Above all, we should have an effective Corporate Culpable Homicide legislation.

"Where life has been taken away, there should be available one of the gravest criminal offences in our society.

"It should not be a law which only calls to account small companies, not large ones, as is presently the case. It should also be a law which identifies the individuals concerned and if their conduct amounts to culpable homicide, then they should be charged with that.

"However the test, at the end of the day for all of these laws is to reduce workplace and industrial deaths year on year.

"The fact that they are not reducing shows that we are failing.

"We must prevent the human tragedies which are recurring every month and reform our laws and courts accordingly."

Other speakers at the Workers Memorial Day Rally in George Square included:  Karen Thomson, of Families Against Corporate Killing, Councilor Stephen Purcell, Leader, Glasgow City Council, Dave Moxham, STUC Deputy General Secretary, and Sarah Jones, Scottish Government and PCS member.

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