Scotland politics

Rosepark prosecution loophole could be closed

Rosepark care home
Image caption The deaths of residents at Rosepark nursing home could have been prevented, according to an inquiry

A legal loophole which enabled owners of the Rosepark nursing home - where 14 elderly people died in a fire in 2004 - to avoid prosecution, could be closed under new plans.

The UK government has launched a consultation focused on Scots law and the criminal liability of partnerships.

The legal case against Rosepark's owners collapsed due to a loophole which prevented the prosecution of a partnership once it had been dissolved.

Proposed reforms would change this law.

The consultation will seek views on proposals put forward by the Scottish Law Commission.

The proposed changes would ensure all Scottish partnerships could be held to account if they commit crimes and would prevent them escaping prosecution for potentially serious offences by dissolving.

In 2007 and 2008, attempts to prosecute Thomas and Anne Balmer and their son Alan, the owners of the Rosepark nursing home in Lanarkshire, over alleged safety breaches collapsed.

Rulings in the case stated that the Balmers could not be held responsible as the Rosepark care home firm had been dissolved.

In 2010 the fatal accident inquiry found that "some or all" of the 14 deaths of residents aged between 75-98 could have been prevented by a "suitable" fire safety plan.

Delivering justice

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: "There is an urgent need to ensure that we end the loophole that led to the failure of prosecutions following the Rosepark tragedy.

"This must not be allowed to happen again. It is not right that partnerships are able to avoid criminal proceedings by dissolving."

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said: "Following the consultation process, we would welcome the swift introduction of legislation to enable the Crown to prosecute partnerships where at present if they dissolved this would not be possible."

Michael McMahon, MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, which covers the Rosepark nursing home welcomed the consultation launch.

He said: "I hope the UK government's actions will result in the closure of this loophole once and for all.

"The Rosepark tragedy touched the lives of so many people locally. The fact that justice was not delivered only added to the pain and suffering they have been forced to endure, so I know this progress will be welcomed locally."

Club responsibilities

The consultation will also look at the separate issue of reforming the law on unincorporated associations.

Without reform, a member of a charity, club or other unincorporated association could be personally liable for someone injured at an event it has organised, exposing them to personal financial risk.

Mr Moore added: "It is not fair that someone who gives their time to the management of a club or association should be held personally - and financially - responsible for an accident or injury which happens at one of its events.

"We believe that should be the responsibility of the organisation as a whole and are consulting on the best way to remove this risk and ensure individuals who help manage clubs or voluntary associations are protected."

The government will now consider whether to implement the proposals from the Scottish Law Commission, and will do so after seeking views on the issues through the consultation process.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites