Repeat After Me: “The Process Is The Punishment”

Manslaughter charges brought against a fireworks display organiser after a crash on the M5 which killed seven people, including a Bristol lorry driver, have been dropped.

Oh, he still faces charges, but not so severe ones:

Peter Blair QC, prosecuting, said a “firm decision” had now been made to prosecute Counsell under the Health and Safety at Work Act for failing to ensure the safety of others.

So…why were manslaughter charges ever considered? A question that the defence asked, in truth:

The Recorder of Bristol, Neil Ford QC, declined a request by Mr Blair to use his powers to sit as a magistrate so Counsell could be charged and committed to Crown court immediately.Adrian Derbyshire QC, defending, had discouraged the judge from taking that course, saying the defence should have time to “consider the implications” of any new charge.

Mr Derbyshire added that his view was that Counsell “should never have been charged with manslaughter”.


After the case Crown Prosecution Service chief prosecutor for the South West, Barry Hughes, said the decision to drop the manslaughter charge was due to there being insufficient evidence to proceed with it and had been made after taking “further advice from a leading expert on the law of negligence”.

Maybe I’m cynical, but perhaps the real reason is that they suddenly realised he wasn’t going to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. So they might actually have to do some work!

9 comments for “Repeat After Me: “The Process Is The Punishment”

  1. January 21, 2013 at 8:15 am

    It should be called the Crown Political Service. He was a bloke, ergo guilty, and the government had to look “caring”, and so go on the attack. Still, at least our legal system is getting more like Europe’s! šŸ˜ˆ

  2. Robert Edwards
    January 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Good. This all happened q. near me and I spoke with several participants and witnesses (none of whom were connected with the Rugby club involved) and all agreed that the initial charges were bordering on the ridiculous.

    It was a truly terrible event, but fulfilled the proper definition of ‘accident’, i.e. no-one was responsible; merely the outcome of a chain of events no single one of which was within the gift of any individual to control or halt.

    Another example (as if any more were needed) of the singular uselessness of the CPS.

  3. Woman on a Raft
    January 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Unfortunately the CPS has become thoroughly politicised (as has the law) and faces no penalty for misusing its process as punishment.

    This man has now had 14 months of waiting to see if he was going to face trial, plus it will drag on longer because of the change to something the CPS have finally realized they stand a realistic chance winning (or maybe they don’t if he can show he took every possible care but it was just a freak environmental result).

    With a delay like that perhaps it should be ruled out of time; if the state can’t make its case promptly in a relatively simple case it should be stopped from further baiting the citizen. We outlawed it for chained bears some time ago.

    I’m very sorry for the bereaved and the victims but unfortunately, sometimes genuine accidents happen.

    • January 23, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Clearly, bears have more supporters than motorists!

  4. Greg Tingey
    January 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    For a death, I THOUGHT if no charges had been brought within a year & a day afterwards, then you were “Out of time”.
    But, of course, this is not a direct attempt regarding death – it’s a get-out, because they’ve been made to look like idiots.
    Going to be difficult.
    Officialdom being bastards for the sake of it, I’m afraid.

  5. Audrey Quattro
    January 21, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I wonder if the guy was going to quote Met Office reports of predicted wind directions??? No one questions “the Met Office”…..

    • January 23, 2013 at 11:50 am


  6. David A. Evans
    January 23, 2013 at 10:27 am

    If the new charge is a summary offence, (one that can be dealt with by a magistrates court), then they’re beyond the 6 month limit surely.

    Of course no-one has thought of blaming people driving in a manner unsuitable for the conditions of visibility. I know that stretch of motorway and it’s notorious for foggy conditions that were also present.


    • January 23, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Having witnessed some utterly appalling driving in snow and fog recently, I concur. Sadly, they usually walk away unscathed and kill the poor sod they run into…

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