Who? Alan Fox, senior enforcement lawyer at the Health and Safety Executive in Bootle.
Why is he in the news? Fox assumed oversight of the prosecution of Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd, which was fined £5m plus costs of £69,955.40, following a rollercoaster collision at Alton Towers last year that left 16 people injured.
Thoughts on the case: ‘The rollercoaster crash presented particular challenges, including trying to understand why such a catastrophic event occurred on a modern ride causing such terrible injuries. Excellent teamwork involving various disciplines established that the ride was properly designed but the company did not have a safe system of work to operate it. To its credit, the company recognised that.
‘The challenge to the court was to apply the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences (quite a complex exercise) which resulted in the fine of £5m.
‘It was humbling to meet the victims, mainly young people, who had suffered life-changing injuries. They showed incredible dignity and courage.’
Dealing with the media: ‘The case generated huge media interest, [as] millions of people enjoy theme parks. Hopefully, the widespread reporting will help drive up standards. That is what we really want.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I came from a family of steelworkers and miners. So partly to avoid hard work (or so I thought!) but also because some people raised their eyebrows when I mentioned the law.’
Career high: ‘My very first advocacy as an articled clerk, representing a single parent appealing against cuts to her social security. Despite being up against an experienced opponent, my arguments succeeded. As I turned to my client expecting to be hailed a hero, she abruptly left without saying a word, never to be heard of again. Welcome to the law!’
Career low: ‘I was one of the first CPS solicitor-advocates in the Crown court breaking new ground for solicitors. My first day went well and the next day a very senior national figure observed me to check how well I was doing. The judge asked me a legal question that was so complicated it might as well have been in Serbo- Croat. I would have struggled to answer it with a month’s notice.’