In January Garry Weddell, who was on bail awaiting trial for the murder of his wife, killed his mother-in-law before taking his own life. The fact that he was out on bail generated a huge public row and Jack Straw, the justice secretary, ordered a review of the bail arrangements for murder suspects that was published today.
The review concluded that banning bail for all murder suspects would “present legal problems”. Straw said that the important thing was to “strike the right balance between respecting individuals’ right to liberty and protecting the public”.
But, if he wanted to learn more about protecting the public, Straw should have dropped in to committee room 11 in the Commons this afternoon where the authors of a new report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies were presenting the findings of a fascinating study into “the decriminalisation of death and injury at work”.
Officially, you are more likely to be murdered in the UK than to die in a workplace accident. In 2005-06 there were 765 homicides in England and Wales (14 per million) and 217 fatal injuries to workers (7 per million).
But the authors tried to get a more accurate figure for workplace fatalities. The official Health and Safety Executive figures only include fatal injuries to employees and the self-employed. If you include accidents that kill members of the public and road deaths involving “at work” vehicles, the number of people killed from occupational injuries rises to around 1,300.
Or, as the authors say, “at least twice as many people die from fatal injuries at work than are victims of homicide”.
The authors described this as “safety crime” (a term I have never heard before). And they suggest that Labour’s light-touch regulatory approach to business is making it easier for employers to get away with it.
“What is remarkable about these unremarkable processes is how they attract little or no popular, political or academic attention,” they say.
“Just as remarkable here is the contrast between this deafening silence on the one hand and the ongoing moral panic that characterises social responses to most ‘mainstream’ violent crime on the other.”