AS a change frae watchin Judge Judy, the 17th Janwar gien us three hours o the Lord Advocate at the Halyrood Justice Commattee – ane o the best career “train wrecks” ah hae e’er observed! He wis there tae answer questions as pairt o the commattee’s inquiry intil the performance o the Crown Office an Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The denouement cam near the hinnerent o this performance, skip forrit tae 3hr 00min oan YouTube: MSP Mary Fee lined up the baw fir a straicht forrit penalty-kick: “Why dae ye tak sae few health an safety cases?”. He kent fu weel this wis comin as action group ASAP-NHS hud ludged a submission tae this review sayin that the COPFS wisnae daein its joab oan protectin the Scottish people oan public safety as the law required. Claucht oot, the Lord Advocate dived the wrang wey, fumbled the baw, an it went straicht throu his legs! Get in! Meldin wir metaphors, whit he duin likesay wis a “coort room train crash”! Fir the few viewers wha saw this it wis lik seein the hale case fir the COPFS as being a competent body bein wiped oot at ae fell stroke!

He telt the commattee that the raison wis acause ‘‘health and safety cases are complicated, they tak a loat o resources, an the defendant micht hae the resources tae defend thaimsels”. That is, we wullnae prosecute unless cases are verra simple, dinnae cost much, an thair’s little chaunce o a not guilty plea, wi the defendant haein the siller tae airgue the case. Ye see it in coort aftimes, some wee thing is said an the hale case is loast. As a “train wrecks” go this yin wis gey surreal; the puir victim didnae e’en ken he’d bin in a train wreck till somebody telt him eftirhint.

Earlier the Lord Advocate quoted the great Scottish legal authority Baron Hume (1757-1838). “The responsibility of the role of Lord Advocate is to administer equal justice to all the Queen’s subjects”. It wis gey peculiar that athin an hour this hud bin amended tae “Naw, we wullnae prosecute ye if ye hae the siller tae defend yersel!” The confession conteenued; he said that gin ye thocht things wir bad the nou ye shuid hae seen thaim a puckle years ago. Watch it fir yersel friens! He e’en smiles when he says it! “When we taen health an safety cases we wir gettin the cases wrang an sae the coorts flang thaim oot. It wis a big waste, thae cases taen a lang time tae prepare, an then they didnae e’en get heard.”

Tradeetionally Scotland taks verra few HSWA cases; we hae a richt bad safety record fir baith warkers an the public. At the hinnerend COPFS set up a specialist health an safety unit – but thon’s no muckle better. It means that they still anely tak cases tae are simple, that they are confident o winnin, an there’s nae much chaunce o a serious challenge. This is verra selective, it’s “cherry-pickin”, an it isnae justice fowks! It wid seem that baith in warker safety an public safety the cases arenae bein taen acause o raisons o finance an lack o expertise. Earlier in the ongauns the Lord Advocate said that he wis easie-osie anent the siller that his ministerial colleagues in the Scottish Government gien him. Then he said he didnae hae the siller tae dae his joab in an airt that cuivers verra serious offences. COPFS didnae prosecute oan the Embra schuil wa’s collapsin an the daith o the 12-year-auld schuil lassie Keane Wallis-Bennett, the Glesga bin lorry disaster, the 40 suspicious daiths at NHS Ayrshire an Arran, or the daith o the ower-warkt junior doactir Dr Lauren Connelly. Aa events that wir entirely preventable an avoidable – an aa o whilk shuid be verra much in the public interest.

The situation gets e’en warse! We at ASAP-NHS hae bin concernt that the daiths in healthcare that shuid be reportit tae the COPFS arenae bein reportit as they shuid. The reports ower a reenge o types o daiths sic as accidents, the 50 intentional homicides, mental health service daiths, daiths o weans an thaim frae perteecular industrial diseases. Maist o the categories, though, relate tae patient safety includin whaur the relatives are concernt anent the staundarts o care. COPFS get the reports sae that they can decide oan whit action, gif ony, tae tak, includin supposedly lairnin tae impruive patient safety. The nummer o daiths reportit bi NHS hospitals alane is around 5,000 a year. Frae freedom of information we fin a wide-reenge in reportin bi NHS Boards. Wan reports per cent whiles anither reports 34 per cent. Thair something here verra wrang! The daiths are bein vastly unner-reported. The nummers kythe that aiblins 500 daiths arenae reportit.

Whit the figures shuid be fir ither pairts o healthcare? Wha kens? Whit we dae ken is that the COPFS dinnae follae mandatory procedures fir investigatin the suspicious daiths in health care. It aamaist ayeweys anely dis a paper exercise an anely hus the hospital’s ain report – wi nae independent external checks or balances – in ither wirds, hospitals are alloued tae merk their ain hamewark! Mind, it’s nae a gairden o roses doun south eithers, but they hae at least recognised these failins an are pitten a loat intil independent investigation o these types o daiths. Whiles here? We hae nae NHS regulator ava.

Heized bi the Lord Advocate’s YouTube confession, oor “justice” system gies the green licht tae law brekkin oan a massive scale. The irresponsible message is: “Keep oan wi it, we wullnae prosecute ye, cause we huvnae the money!” This disnae uphaud the law, it disnae prevent crime, an it disnae prosecute crime. It’s no actin lik a justice system – it’s mair lik an “injustice system”!

The Lord Advocate hus tae recognise the existin problems, no the complacency an dangerous consequences o the mony cases o avoidable daiths in Scotland. Oor justice system needs tae prevent these – no provoke thaim!