Italian Experts Convicted of Manslaughter in Connection with Earthquake Predictions and False Assurances in the Use of Force Community
Seven expert members of the Italian National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks have been convicted of manslaughter in Italy in relation to a devastating earthquake which struck the city of L’Aquila in 2009. The disaster killed over 300 people, injured over 1000 and left tens of thousands homeless. The court in L’Aquila found the experts guilty of multiple manslaughter and sentenced them each to six years in prison.
The defendants – consisting of six scientists and an ex-governmental official – were prosecuted for giving false assurances to the public before the earthquake struck. It was stated that the public had relied upon this information, which was ‘inaccurate, incomplete, and contradictory’ and were reassured to remain in the city. Had they not been given this reassurance, many of those in the city may have evacuated the area, keeping them safely away from the impact of the incident.
In the months leading up to the disaster several hundred small tremors had hit the area, causing concern regarding the likelihood of a major impact. A meeting was held by the Commission in L’Aquila and following the meeting a statement was made at a press conference by one of the defendants stating that the situation was believed to be ‘normal’ and it was even ‘favourable’ that energy was being released in this way through the tremors. It was asserted by the prosecution at trial that the defendants were liable as a result of this statement for failing to properly communicate the risks.
The outcome of the prosecution saw Judge Marco Billi convict each of the experts of manslaughter in the Italian regional court – sentencing them to a six year prison sentence, barring them from ever holding a future public office, and ordering them to pay costs and damages to the value of €7.8m (£6.4m). The sentences were at a higher level than the 4 year prison sentences that were sought by the prosecution.
So what has that got to do with us?
Well how many times do training providers, and even the management of some companies, give ‘false assurances’ when teaching or allowing staff to be taught techniques that are highly like to fail in high pressure situations.
Also, how many agencies are still teaching techniques that we all know increase the risk of death and even some that have been banned because of it? Techniques like the prone position, supine and even the seated double-embrace that killed people like Gareth Myatt and Jimmy Mubenga to name only two.
How many staff are being taught inadequate skills that will not work insinuations of high emotional stress?
How many door supervisors are still being allowed to work single-person doors and are being trained to restrain on their own?
And, to top it all, how many Government inspectors are so ill advised that they think that some private companies are some kind of National Governing Body promoting a Nationally recognises standard?
Only last weekend at a conference I heard a qualified nurse tell me that she has been told that she is not allowed to restrain a patient as the company has a no restraint policy!
Maybe the case will set an international precedent for Corporate Manslaughter cases here in the UK where training providers and companies alike could be held to account where a death occurs for allowing less than adequate training to be delivered, by less than competent training providers who promote less than competent legal advice and guidance to those faced with the risk of having to control and restrain those who present violent and challenging behaviour.
The law is moving on people and we either embrace it and keep up with it or become victims of it.
Next Advanced Restraint Instructors Course is March 2013 and we have already started taking bookings. To find out more click here.