MSP slams legionnaire’s disease ‘wall of silence’

Marco Biagi is demanding answers over the legionnaire's outbreak. Picture: Greg Macvean
Marco Biagi is demanding answers over the legionnaire's outbreak. Picture: Greg Macvean
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AN MSP has hit out at a “wall of silence” over the legionnaire’s disease outbreak in the Capital which claimed four lives in 2012.

Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi complained that two and half years after the deaths of three men and one woman no prosecutions had yet been brought against those responsible.

Initial reports were submitted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to the procurator fiscal early last year but the findings of the investigation have yet to be publicly released.

During the outbreak – which erupted in Gorgie – scores of people fell ill and had to be treated in hospital.

Now Mr Biagi has written to the HSE demanding answers.

He said: “After the tragic outbreak it’s essential that people know that justice is done. Two and a half years on we appear to be nowhere closer to the public knowing the truth.

“I understand that these investigations are technical and complex and will be time-consuming. But if there are still investigative avenues open then the HSE should be clear about that and about how long this will likely take. Those affected deserve reassurance but it has felt like there is a wall of silence around the investigation.”

He said he hoped the HSE would agree to meet him to discuss the way forward.

During the outbreak in June and July 2012, two firms – the North British Distillery and pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith – were served with improvement notices in relation to cooling towers which can be a source of legionella bacteria. Last year, frustrated victims began legal action to secure the release of documents relating to the inquiry.

In his letter to the HSE, Mr Biagi said: “I am increasingly dismayed at the ongoing silence surrounding the causes of this outbreak and any prosecution of those responsible.

“In July 2013, the Health and Safety Executive wrote to me stating that ‘our investigations are in their concluding stages and reports are being prepared for consideration by the Crown Office’. Since then you have failed to keep either myself or those affected by the outbreak adequately informed. There has been no attempt to explain the lengthy delay in making the outcome of these investigations public. You will be aware that some victims have felt it necessary to pursue legal action to secure this information.

“I appreciate that health and safety is a reserved issue and that the Health and Safety Executive reports to the UK Government, rather than the Scottish Parliament. However, I represent constituents who were affected and believe you have a responsibility to at least keep myself, and my constituents, informed.” The Health and Safety Executive said it had submitted reports on the outbreak to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

A spokeswoman said: “HSE submitted its first interim reports to COPFS in September 2013. HSE completed its investigation in April 2014, reviewed the significant volume of evidence, obtained independent expert opinion and submitted a number of final reports to COPFS in June last year.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The Health and Safety Executive has submitted its final reports to the COPFS and these are being carefully considered by the specialist prosecutors in the COPFS Health and Safety Division.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further.”