When someone you know is killed at work it can be difficult to know what to do. This was written in 2002 by Tim Jones, Simon’s brother, for the friends and families of people killed at work
1 DON’T CALL IT AN ACCIDENT
This is part of the language of cover-up. Check the dictionary. An accident is something which can’t be foreseen or expected, or has no obvious cause. Most workplace deaths are caused by greed or laziness on behalf of the people running the company leading to unsafe working conditions. Call them crimes or just deaths but don’t use the A-word.
2 GET A GOOD LAWYER
Maybe you’ve heard that lawyers don’t help and just take your money. There may be some like that but we haven’t met any. Maybe the coroners office will tell you that you don’t need a solicitor. This is not true.
Check out Inquest. Find a solicitor who has experience of inquests and if possible of deaths at work. Without one, you’re stuffed. The employer will have the best lawyer he can afford! If you get into an inquest without a legal representative, the coroner will push for a verdict of accidental death, either because he (they’re mostly men) wants a quiet life, or because he drinks at the same golf club or Freemasons Hall as the employer.
He will call “expert witnesses” who will be “economical with the truth” to convince the jury. Also your solicitor can ask for certain evidence to be released which, if it’s not done at inquest, can never be released later when you may need it. If you don’t believe it read Invisible Crime by Ann Elvin.
3 KICK ASS
When dealing with officials, have a pen and notebook. Write the date and time, the name of the person you spoke to and what they said, as exactly as you can. Make copies of all letters you get from officials and send copies to your solicitor.
Get in touch with the Health and Safety Executive. Find out if they’re investigating the case, and the name of the inspector dealing with it. If they’re not investigating the case, find out why not.
Get in touch with the Police. Ask if they’re investigating the death as a crime, if not why not. Try to find out the names of the officers who attended after the death.
Get in touch with the Coroner’s officer. Find out as much as they’ll tell you.
Best of luck! Don’t let any of these people fob you off. Keep pestering. Phone regularly for updates. People are much more likely to do something if you keep the pressure up. If they refuse to speak to you ask to speak to their immediate superior. If that request is refused, make a note of the date and time and who refused the request and send letters to the head of the organisation asking for an immediate explanation.
4 FIND ANY WITNESSES
Dodgy employers will try to bribe or intimidate witnesses. Try to keep in touch. Ask witnesses to write down what happened while it’s still fresh in their minds. Get then to sign and date their statements if you can.
5 CONTACT THE MEDIA
Try the Guardian, Independent, Express, local papers, local radio or TV. Anything. Don’t let them use the word “tragic” or the A-word. Remember it’s a crime which needs investigating.
Be careful to avoid anything which could be construed as prejudicing the case or, if it eventually goes against you, libel, slander or defamation. Do not say that the employer is guilty, but it’s OK to say that [unspecified] companies get away with manslaughter and that your friend’s death warrants a full criminal investigation, including trial by jury. If in any doubt, check with your solicitor.
Your campaign is likely to be more successful if you use the victim’s name and picture. It shows a real person, a real life that has been lost, something that people can identify with. Other campaigns involving the deaths of more people have had much less publicity and success than ours, and I believe this is partly due to the fact that we have always identified Simon with his name and picture.
When you are going to be interviewed (either because you and a journalist have specifically arranged an interview, or because you are present at a court hearing or a demonstration), think in advance about what to say. This does not mean you need a script (you won’t know exactly what they’ll ask, anyway), but think about what they are likely to ask, & think of a few good soundbites to throw in if the opportunity arises.
6 SEE YOUR MP
You can write or e-mail but they have mountains of paperwork and face-to-face is better. Check local press for “surgeries” or phone local Labour/Conservative/Liberal Democrat party office and ask for an appointment. Write down what you want to say. Keep it short but complete. Write down what they tell you.
Although seeing MPs face to face is most constructive, writing beforehand is a good idea, to prompt them into thinking about the issue, and to ensure that they can’t plead ignorance of your case on the grounds that your visit is “out of the blue.” Remember that it is your MP’s duty to represent your concerns in Parliament, whether you voted for him / her or not.
When writing, make it relevant to the MP; while personal / emotional issues are ok to mention, the main focus of the letter should be political. If you can make it relevant to current political issues, so much the better. For example, I wrote some letters to Labour MPs shortly after Labour’s promise to get “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime,” quoting this and asking if this would include getting tough on criminals who run companies that kill their employees.
7 THEN KICK ASS (PART 2)
If going through all the proper channels of writing to MPs, Police, HSE, national newspapers etc should fail to bring about any real action, you could try some publicity stunts to embarass or inconvenience certain persons or organisations – not that we would endorse anything that might be illegal (anyway, remember, WE ARE ON THE SIDE OF LAW AND ORDER – IT IS THE CPS AND THEIR ALLIES WHO OPPOSE LAW-ENFORCEMENT).
Look at the actions taken by the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign and the results achieved, and use your imagination. Recent events here and in France have shown that whether or not you agree with the aims or tactics used, direct action works – and political progress can happen with surprising speed if enough people make enough fuss.