Jim Meyer is recognised as a leading lawyer with expertise in the potential criminal liability of persons1 following accidents at work and health and safety-related failures.
- He has represented numerous defendants accused of gross negligence manslaughter following fatal incidents at work – all have been acquitted.
- He has also advised companies in relation to their potential liability for corporate manslaughter – none have been prosecuted.
That track record should not be a surprise: Jim and his team are one of the few solicitors contracted by the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) to undertake criminal prosecutions on its behalf, and they currently provide an average of 3,480 hours chargeable hours of advice and assistance (including representation at court) per year on health and safety matters.
The reality is that a small number of insurance-funded law firms dominate the provision of legal services to those finding themselves under scrutiny following an accident or as a result of proactive regulation. Jim does not work for such a firm; putting aside the work that he undertakes for the Health and Safety Executive, the majority of Jim’s clients are recommended to him by such firms because of a potential conflict of interest but others are seeking the advice of a specialist lawyer who is completely independent of their insurer.
Jim is not a commercial lawyer and his firm does not undertake any commercial work; he is unique in that he has a huge amount of experience in this area of law but has no commercial arm which vies for an introduction to a potential new client. That is why other lawyers feel confident in recommending him; they know he has the experience and knowledge that will see the client right, but they also know that by referring the client to Jim they are not risking their future relationship.
Providing support to potential witnesses when they speak to investigating authorities and in advance of them giving evidence
Because of Jim’s experience both as a health and safety enforcement lawyer but moreover as a defence specialist with over 27 years‘ experience of criminal litigation, he is often asked to advise and provide support to potential witnesses when an investigating authority, such as the police, HSE and the Office of Rail and Road (“ORR”), indicates it wishes to speak to them. Jim provides the reassurance that the individual’s rights, including the right not to incriminate oneself, are protected and that the witness provides the best evidence (s)he can; in advance of any meeting Jim will do his best to ensure that the format for the questioning is understood, the topics for discussion are fully appreciated and that the witness is properly prepared for these.
Jim is also able to provide familiarisation training to witnesses who are to be called to give evidence during proceedings (inquisitorial and criminal); using his 27 years‘ experience as a contentious litigator, Jim will make sure the witness has a complete understanding of the theory, practice and procedure of giving evidence and what is expected of them. This includes orientating the witness with:
- The layout of the legal forum;
- The likely sequence of events when the witness will be giving evidence;
- The different responsibilities of the various people at the hearing.
Sound knowledge and understanding of health and safety law
Jim has practiced health and safety law now for over 19 years. He has advised clients in relation to the application of and compliance with the primary duties set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as well as those created and set out in the Act’s subordinate regulations, including:
- Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015;
- Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007;
- Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012;
- Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2005;
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002;
- Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012;
- Electricity at Work Regulations 1989;
- Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998;
- Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999;
- Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998;
- Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992;
- Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999;
- Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998;
- Radiation (Emergency Preparedness & Public Information) Regulations 2001;
- Work at Height Regulations 2005;
- Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
Knowledge and experience of Enforcement Notice Appeals and the Employment Tribunal
Jim has advised on and had the conduct of numerous Enforcement Notice Appeals; each case varies but they all follow similar arguments:
- Some relate to an inspector’s interpretation of the law;
- Others relate to the use and extent of the inspector’s powers;
- Often, whilst the breach is admitted it is the proposed solution that is appealed, primarily on the grounds that it is not reasonably practicable;
- An argument might be that the time allowed to comply with the notice is too short;
- Finally, on rare occasions appellants will argue that whilst they have breached the law, the breach is so insignificant that the notice should be cancelled.
In each instance, the goal is to either vary the terms of the notice or have it overturned altogether but you need to act quickly; appeals must be made within 21 days.
Knowledge and experience of Coroner’s inquests and public enquiries
Jim has advised interested parties at numerous inquests, including conducting the advocacy and providing support and awareness training for witnesses who may be called to give evidence. Although the purpose of inquests is to determine who, where, when and how the deceased died, the questioning can often go wider than these 4 issues and Coroners will almost certainly direct for a number of enquiries to be carried out, including:
- Obtaining medical records;
- Taking witness statements;
- Obtaining expert reports;
- Obtaining prison records / police records / other relevant records;
- Obtaining CCTV or other recordings of relevant evidence.
In addition, reports of investigations carried out by third parties may be disclosed, most often:
- NHS Trust internal investigation reports;
- Care Quality Commission investigation reports;
- Reports by the HSE.
In addition to assisting witnesses, Jim can provide support to any duty-holder’s wider investigation, including coordinating and providing investigative resources, and / or by
1 This includes natural persons and corporations, unincorporated bodies, partnerships, limited liability partnerships and trusts.↩
Relevant case law in relation to corporate manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter