No prosecution over Alison Hume Ayrshire mineshaft death
- 29 November 2013
- From the section Glasgow & West Scotland
The family of a woman who died after falling down an Ayrshire mineshaft say they are "very upset" no-one will be prosecuted over failures to save her.
Alison Hume, 44, lay for six hours after health and safety rules delayed a rescue at Galston in 2008.
Subsequent inquiries found she may have lived if the fire service acted sooner.
The Crown Office said a prosecution would not be possible because the fire service was only obliged to save people from fires and road traffic accidents.
A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "Following a complex and thorough investigation in relation to the death of Alison Hume in 2008, including consideration of specific issues of concern raised by her family, Crown counsel considered that there was insufficient evidence that a crime had been committed to raise criminal proceedings at this time.
"Prosecutors met with the family of Alison Hume in Kilmarnock today to advise them of the decision."
Mrs Hume's stepfather Hugh Cowan said the family was "very upset" by the decision but it was "not the end of the road" and they would seek further legal advice.
He also said the family were entitled to ask for a review of the decision and would do so.
Reflecting on the toll the tragedy and its aftermath had on the family, Mr Cowan added: "The whole family has been suffering from stress and it's been a complete traumatic experience for everybody. We need to get closure."
Mr Cowan said they would reflect on developments and decide at a later date whether to pursue a civil case against the emergency services.
A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said: "We are committed to learning the lessons from the fatal accident inquiry, Sheriff Leslie's conclusions and the subsequent HM Inspectorate of Fire report into the tragic death of Alison Hume.
"The new national service is working to ensure every part of Scotland benefits from equitable access to specialist resources."
Legally SFRS has only three obligations; prevention of fires, and the rescue of people from fires and road traffic accidents.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) campaigned at Holyrood to have the statutory responsibilities of the service widened.
John Duffy, FBU Scottish Secretary, said: "There's no clarity when it comes to who takes responsibility in rescues from flood, collapsed buildings or mineshafts.
"SFRS should do what it says on the side of its trucks and take responsibility in all emergency rescues."
Mrs Hume, a solicitor who worked with the Renfrewshire legal firm McCusker McElroy and Co, fell into the decommissioned Goatfoot Colliery mineshaft shortly before or after midnight on 26 July 2008.
She was found by her daughter and emergency services were called to the scene at about 02:15.
The mother-of-two was eventually freed by mountain rescue experts at about 07:42 and was "profoundly hypothermic" and in a critical condition having suffered a pneumothorax, broken ribs and a broken sternum.
Mrs Hume suffered cardiac arrest while being brought to the surface and later died in Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock.
A subsequent fatal accident inquiry (FAI) under Sheriff Desmond Leslie found that Mrs Hume's death "may have been avoided" if a number of "reasonable precautions" had been taken.
He found that the emergency services should have acted sooner in assessing the mineshaft and surrounding area and the danger to Mrs Hume of a "prolonged stay in cold and wet conditions".
The FAI also found that Strathclyde Police and Strathclyde Fire and Rescue had an "inadequate knowledge" of the rescue resources available and there was a "lack of understanding and familiarity" about the equipment at their disposal.
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue - since replaced by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service - was heavily criticised for failing to apologise to Mrs Hume's family in the immediate aftermath of the FAI.
It did, however, after First Minister Alex Salmond ordered a new probe by HM Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Authorities, Steven Torrie.
In his report, Mr Torrie concluded: "Successful rescue was not guaranteed - but was much more likely if the rescue had been carried out reasonably quickly.
"And in relation to that, there was an insufficient and inexplicable lack of focus on the need for a speedy recovery from fire and rescue operational commanders.
"It ought to have been clear to the decision-makers that Alison's condition would deteriorate the longer she was down the shaft and that hypothermia would be a significant risk to her."
Following Mr Torrie's report, the Scottish government said new safety measures had been put in place, including line rescue training, to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Mrs Hume's death would not be repeated.