Yesterday, the mine manager and mine owner of the Gleision Mine in the Swansea Valley were found not guilty of manslaughter at Swansea Crown Court despite it being the site of Wales’ worst mining disaster for three decades, which saw the death of four men.

On 15 November 2011, four miners drowned 300 ft below the surface after a controlled explosion caused the passage they were working in to become engulfed with water.

The prosecution argued that the mine manager, Malcolm Fyfield, had failed to properly inspect the area for the presence of water.

Sadly an unsurprising outcome for the families of the deceased

Thompsons Solicitors, who are representing the families of the four miners who died in claims for compensation against the mine owner, MNS Mining Ltd, says that the outcome of the criminal case is as unsurprising, given the state of the law, as it is disappointing.

“Getting a conviction on a charge of corporate manslaughter is very difficult as the prosecution has to prove the manager’s actions amounted to gross negligence which is a hugely difficult legal burden. You can be careless, you can be negligent – and have men die as a result – but unless it is gross negligence you walk free”, commented Anthony Welsh, the solicitor at Thompsons representing the families of the deceased.

“This trial reignites the call for the law to be made simpler and for owners and directors to be held more accountable.

Legislation to protect mine workers likely to be weakened

“It’s too late now for the families we are representing but this is a wakeup call for those who talk about red tape and for this government who with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have sought to dilute existing legislation there to protect mine workers.

The fact is that the law in this area is likely to become weaker than it was when the disaster at Gleision occurred and, in memory of these men who went to work on the 15th of November 2011 and never came home, that cannot be right.”

A recent consultation carried out by the HSE on further changes to the health and safety regime in mines shows that the trend of relaxing legislation is likely to continue.

HSE should publish investigation findings in full

Thompsons also echoes the thoughts of Neath MP Peter Hain who has said today that the families of the deceased “still need answers” and are calling on the HSE to release the full report of its investigation into what happened at Gleision to the public.

Click here to read the Thompsons response to the HSE’s recent consultation on health and safety in mines.