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Birmingham wall collapse deaths: Prosecution decision delayed


Victims of the wall collapse
Image caption Almamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diaby, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana died in Birmingham in 2016

A decision to delay any prosecutions against a recycling firm over the deaths of five African men in 2016 is “utterly shocking”, an MP has said.

The men were clearing scrap metal when they died at Shredmet, in Birmingham.

Relatives said the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) put back its decision despite promises, leaving them feeling like their lives did not matter.

The HSE said the inquiry took “longer than we had hoped” but shadow minister Seema Malhotra criticised the delay.

The HSE blamed changes to its legal team and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic for adding to delays.

Almamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diaby, Bangally Dukureh, Saibo Sillah and Mahamadou Jagana died when a 3.6m (11ft 10in) concrete wall collapsed on them at the plant in Nechells on 7 July 2016.

Image caption Hawa Kaba, widow of Bangally Dukureh, said she had never got over the death of her husband

The families said they were assured by the HSE the decision on whether the firm would be prosecuted would be made by the fourth anniversary of their deaths.

Daniel Lemberger Cooper, who represents the widows and one survivor, told BBC News the families wanted justice.

In a joint statement, the families said: “This news has caused us grief and anguish. We have met with delay at every stage of the process. We demand justice and accountability.

“We are five black families, from Gambia and Senegal; it is as if our lives do not matter. Our lives do matter.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption After the incident, friends and families gathered outside Shredmet to show their feelings

Ms Malhotra, Labour’s shadow employment minister, said she and shadow employment rights minister Andrew McDonnell would immediately write to the HSE to ask for an explanation for the delay, adding it was “staggering that people have such little leverage over a system that was set up to do the right thing”.

“News that the HSE have yet again delayed their investigation is utterly shocking,” she said.

“It is unacceptable that four years on, the families still don’t have an answer and are left in limbo.”

She said the men had been working hard to build a life for their families and “their lives matter, and their families deserve answers and for the people responsible to be held accountable”.

The men came to the UK from Spain, where they had found it increasingly difficult to find employment after the country’s economic downturn.

An accidental death verdict was recorded at the inquest into the deaths in 2018, with jurors finding the risk of the partition collapsing was never identified, despite being “foreseeable”.

Shredmet’s safety advisor Michael White told the inquest in a statement he was not asked to assess the risks of walls at the scrapyard and he had “no knowledge” how long the wall had been there, who built it or what its purpose was.

Wayne Hawkeswood, Shredmet’s managing director, told the inquest he “simply cannot comprehend how this happened”.

Urging the HSE to make a decision as soon as possible, the families said they could not “grieve or move on”.

Image copyright West Midlands Fire Service
Image caption The HSE investigation began a year after West Midlands Police closed its investigation

“We have always maintained that what happened to our loved ones is a matter not just of our private grief but one of public concern,” they said.

“We can only hope that a robust and unflinching investigation is taking place…they owe it to our loved ones, who had their lives cut short.”

A spokesman for the HSE said it had been carrying out a thorough criminal investigation since the deaths and following up new lines of inquiry after the inquest, which had meant the investigation had taken longer than hoped.

“We have reassured the families that we are doing all we can to bring this to a conclusion as swiftly as possible, while making sure that we reach the right criminal standards of investigation and can take the right action to secure justice.”

Shredmet has been contacted by the BBC for a response.

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