CONFUSION surrounds whether a corporate manslaughter charge can be brought against Highways England over the death of two men on a smart motorway.
Widow Claire Mercer (43) reported the Government-run body to South Yorkshire Police in January after her husband Jason (44), and Alexandru Murgeanu (22), were killed on the controversial system in June 2019.
Claire said the force had batted her report into the long grass, persistently telling her it was liaising with the Health and Safety Executive to see who was best placed to investigate.
Claire said: “After seven months of repeatedly being told by police, ‘We are waiting for HSE’, my sister phoned the HSE and was told that as the motorway was not Jason’s place of work the HSE could not investigate his death.
“A Telegraph journalist also phoned the HSE and was told the same thing.”
But the force said in a letter to Claire this month that it had referred the matter to the HSE.
This week, the Advertiser asked the HSE to confirm if it was not in its jurisdiction to investigate the smart motorway deaths.
A spokesperson said: “HSE is aware of this incident but as it was a road traffic accident it is not in our remit to investigate.”
Despite this, the spokesperson added: “The referral from SYP will be considered by our legal advisors.”
Claire said her correspondence with the police and HSE “didn’t make any sense” — adding: “I think the Advertiser are the first who have managed to get a full response from the HSE.
“I’m getting comments from both sides not making any sense and I’m stuck in the middle with a dead husband and nobody who will look into it.
“They wanted to prosecute the driver (who hit the men) but nobody wants to prosecute the person (Highways England) responsible for, not just these deaths, numerous.”
Claire has now quit her job as an engineering buyer to concentrate on her Smart Motorways Kill campaign, which is calling for an abolishment of the scheme.
Claire, who was in court this week to see the lorry driver who hit the men in an all-lane running stretch of M1 jailed for ten months, added: “My husband has been killed and I’m taking on so many fights.”
MP Sarah Champion, who has backed Claire’s campaign, has written to Rotherham commander, Chief Supt Steve Chapman, over the force’s “unclear” approach.
In the letter, Ms Champion said the HSE’s website clearly stated that suspected corporate manslaughter charges were investigated by the police and not the HSE.
The Rotherham MP asked Mr Chapman to clarify the basis on which it had been determined that the force would not lead the corporate manslaughter investigation.