I am sure that members will have been following events relating to the fatal fire at Atherstone-on-Stour which took place in November 2007. At that tragic incident four FBU members (Brothers Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley) were killed in the worst Fire Service fatal incident in decades.
Since then, various investigations have been taking place and continue. The Union continues to provide legal assistance to the bereaved families.
This case has been particularly significant in that, following a police investigation a decision was made to prosecute three members on charges of gross negligence manslaughter. This case has now been underway for several weeks. We obviously cannot comment in general on this process but the Union has provided or offered separate legal assistance and representation for those charged. I have attended the court case on several occasions along with other officials and an FBU team has been attending throughout the case in order to assist with the ongoing health and safety investigation. This has been a long and extremely difficult process for all involved.
Following the conclusion of the prosecution case, various submissions were made on behalf of the three accused. As a result of this, on Monday this week, the judge directed the jury to find Paul Simmons not guilty on all charges. Bro. Simmons and his family are obviously extremely relieved at this and wish to pass on thanks for the support they have received throughout.
The trial continues and further information will be issued as soon as possible. At the same time work continues to finalise our investigations and prepare for a wider discussion within the Service about the lessons of this terrible incident.