Monday, November 06, 2017 12:30pm
The time taken to resolve workers compensation disputes has blown out in recent times.
Three years on, Pam Gurner-Hall is no closer to an answer as to how her partner, Jorge CastilloRiffo, died in a scissor lift accident at the nRAH construction site.
This tragic case, and others such as the death of former Socceroo Stephen Herczeg and the recent Oakden scandal, have called into question whether our laws are sufficient enough to get to the truth and deliver justice when things go terribly wrong in our public institutions.
The British Parliament is currently considering a law to address this issue.
The Bill was introduced after the former Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones was commissioned last year to produce a report on the experience of families of the 96 that died in the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in 1989. Fresh inquests have concluded that the 96 had been unlawfully killed. That happened only after persistent efforts, over many years, by the families of the deceased to seek justice.
Unlike our State laws, the British Bill will extend to breaches not only by public servants but also by any associated private entity or individual.
The Bill will also provide for publicly funded legal assistance and representation at inquests and public inquiries, relating to deaths or serious injuries involving a public authority or relevant private entity, to bereaved interested persons and core participants.
Essentially, family members would not only have the right to appear, they would be suitably funded for legal representation to the same level and in proportion to the resources provided to the public authority. This would help to level the playing field between the public authority and victims’ loved ones
Further, a coroner or a chair of a public inquiry would be empowered to order costs against a public authority or private entity where there is a finding of a breach of a duty.
Currently, publicly funded legal representation at inquests and public hearings is at the discretion of the Government. Inquests can take place in an emotionally and politically charged environment.
It is not desirable that decisions of funding be left to the Government of the day where its own department is under scrutiny.
If public monies are being used to represent public servants accused of neglect or worse, then families of the deceased should also have the right to publicly funded representation.
We have a Victims of Crime Fund that’s sitting on about $300 million. This would be an appropriate use of the fund.
The Hillsborough tragedy is an example of family members having the greatest interest in discovering the truth.
The deceased should have a proper voice through their surviving family.