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STOP PRESS: Gillian Beckingham has been found guilty on the health & safety charge. ...
STOP PRESS: Gillian Beckingham has been found guilty on the health & safety charge.

The jury has adjourned for a lunch break, returning at 1pm for consideration of the manslaughter verdict.


Jury retires as Barrow legionnaires' disease trial draws to a close

By Lucy Collins

A verdict was due this week on whether Gillian Beckingham was guilty of seven counts of manslaughter.

The Barrow BC design services manager denied all charges of manslaughter and one health and safety offence.

Seven people died and 172 fell seriously ill after catching legionnaires' disease from the cooling towers of the Forum 28 arts centre in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

On Monday the jury of eight women and four men were given final directions by the judge, Mr Justice David Poole.

He told the jury they must be certain it was within the scope of Ms Beckingham's duty to ensure the checking and monitoring of the water in the cooling towers was included in the Interserve maintenance contract. If not, they should not convict her on that element.

The prosecution claimed Ms Beckingham had direct responsibility for the contract, he added. The defence said this was outside the scope of her duty and the responsibility of Forum 28 and Interserve, and she was on holiday at the time the contract was let.

The judge said the jury must also be sure it was Ms Beckingham's duty to ensure monitoring was taking place once the contract had been signed.

The prosecution said Forum 28's technical manager Kevin Borthwick told her the council's environmental health department could not carry out monitoring of the water by taking weekly dipslide tests. They also said Interserve engineer Andy McDonald warned her twice after the contract was signed that water treatment was not being carried out.

The defence argued that Mr Borthwick didn't warn her, and that Mr McDonald never spoke to her in those terms.

Mr Justice Poole said: 'It's common ground that if she was informed then she did have a duty of care.'

The jury retired on Monday morning, but returned with two questions. They wanted to see the police witness statements of building services manager Peter O'Connell, who worked with Ms Beckingham.

The judge read out his statements in which Mr O'Connell said Ms Beckingham told him to arrange the contract before she went on holiday in August 2001 and that he did so. She denied this and said she asked him to liaise with Mr Borthwick.

The jury also asked for a copy of the 10 breaches of care the prosecution alleged Ms Beckingham had committed.

Five of the families of the seven victims sat in the public gallery, alongside members of the police investigation team, Barrow BC chief executive Tom Campbell and Ms Beckingham's husband, David Stables.

The council was acquitted of seven counts of corporate manslaughter at the instruction of the judge last month. It has admitted one health and safety offence which will be dealt with at the end of the trial.

>> Visit the daily news service to read coverage of the verdict.

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