Crown Office: no prosecutions over Edinburgh Legionnaire’s outbreak

Crown Office: no prosecutions over Edinburgh Legionnaire's outbreak

No organisation or individual will be prosecuted for the deaths of four people in Edinburgh during the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in 2012 because the source of the bacteria could not be identified, the Crown Office has stated.

The Health and Safety Executive and Lothian and Borders Police investigated the circumstances of the deaths under the direction of the Health and Safety Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, but could not identify the bacteria’s source despite thorough research.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute said the bacteria samples taken from patients showed that the infection was caused by several subtypes of the bacteria, which makes it much harder to trace.

Dr Paul McAdam, who was involved in the study, warned: “If the observed genetic diversity of bacteria associated with the Edinburgh outbreak turns out to be typical of other outbreaks, the discovery could mean that the source of future infections will be equally difficult to trace.”

The Crown Counsel has concluded that there is insufficient evidence for a prosecution, though families are now being consulted on whether they want to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

Gary Aitken, head of the Health and Safety Division of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “Following a complex and thorough investigation which involved detailed genetic analysis we can only conclude that there is no scientific basis for any prosecution related to the deaths and as a result no criminal proceedings are instructed by Crown Counsel.

“This was always going to be a difficult and complex investigation due to the number of potential sources in the Gorgie area but we continued on in the hope that the necessary scientific evidence would come to light. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened.

“We will now consult further with the families before making any decision in relation to a Fatal Accident Inquiry.”

Professor Alison McCallum, director of Public Health and Health Policy at NHS Lothian, added: “I would like to once again express my sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of those who died during this outbreak and the patients who were affected by Legionella.

“The actions taken by the Incident Management Team at the time of the outbreak minimised the impact on public health. However, as is often the case in outbreaks of this nature, the further microbiological, environmental and genetic investigations have been unable to definitively establish the specific source.

“The review of outbreak management and the subsequent public health research has proved valuable in enhancing the existing knowledge on Legionella outbreaks and control and we have shared our experiences with other public health teams. On behalf of the Incident Management Team I would like those who contributed to this research and the multi-agency team for their efforts.”

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