Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Victim's family 'denied legal aid'

The family of a Belfast engineer killed after safety systems on his equipment failed has been denied public funds for legal representation

The family of an engineer killed after safety systems on his equipment failed has been denied public funds for legal representation, an inquest has been told.

Restrictions on aid means relatives of Gareth Keys, 27, cannot appoint a lawyer to probe concerns raised by a safety expert - even though there have been five deaths in similar circumstances internationally, a preliminary hearing in Belfast was told.

The victim was servicing an elevated platform in May 2008 which an investigator believed had been extended too high and should have been immobilised before the accident, a lawyer told the Belfast preliminary hearing.

His family's solicitor Sam Creighton said: "This is a death which has obviously left these two children without a father. The deceased died on this piece of scissor lift equipment.

"There have been altogether five deaths in similar circumstances, an incident in Poland involved three deaths in one incident. All of these deaths have been on certainly if not identical then very similar equipment, all of the deaths have involved service engineers, which is what the deceased is."

Mr Keys, from Victoria Road in Belfast, was working for a Dunmurry plant hire firm.

The solicitor said a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) official reported two safety systems on the machine failed at the time of his death. The scissor lift was extended beyond its maximum height and was able to be moved in that position.

Mr Creighton said: "It should fail (in order) to save rather than fail."

Legal aid is paid by the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission (NILSC) to help people who cannot afford a lawyer access justice.

The solicitor said despite the safety issues raised his aid application had been refused.

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