City woman in fight for change in law

Alan Winters
Alan Winters
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A SHEFFIELD woman whose partner was crushed to death six weeks before the birth of their child is taking her battle for compensation to the European Court of Human Rights.

Laurie Swift, aged 28, was left to bring up her child alone, without any financial help, when her partner Alan Winters died at work when the couple were preparing for the birth of their first child together.

Alan, 28, of Greenwood Avenue, Darnall, was working at nearby DavyMarkham when he was crushed while trying to remove a five-tonne crate from a shipping container.

He was standing at the back of a forklift truck and attempting to unhook a chain from the container when the driver’s foot slipped on the accelerator - shooting the truck backwards and trapping Alan between its roll cage and the container he was unhooking.

DavyMarkham, an engineering firm, was fined £33,333 with £49,247 costs after the accident after admitting breaching health and safety laws.

But Alan’s partner Laurie, who gave birth to their son Alan Junior six weeks later, is not entitled to any compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act because she had not been living with him long enough.

She had been in a relationship with Alan for 18 months and they lived together for six of those before tragedy struck in July 2008, but the law states compensation will only be paid out to cohabitees if they lived under the same roof for two years.

Although her son has received compensation for the loss of his father, Laurie has not been offered any financial help to bring her child up.

She said: “Since Alan died things have been really tough.

“I’m bringing the children up on my own, I’ve gone back to work to try and make ends meet but nursery charges swallow up a lot of my income.

“Alan only sorted out the mortgage four weeks before he passed away and he hadn’t got round to sorting out life insurance.”

Her solicitor Simon Allen, head of the Personal Injury division of Sheffield solicitors Russell Jones & Walker, said: “The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 reflects the views of society at that time - in essence, that a relationship would only be recognised as such if the couple involved are married.

“Nowadays, many people live together and have children outside of marriage, but the law still doesn’t accept this. It is quite remarkable that the child of the relationship can recover damages but the mother cannot.”

He has taken her case to the High Court where he is seeking a declaration that the law breaches Laurie’s human rights and if successful he would launch proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights for a change of the law.

“We intend to obtain a declaration of incompatibility in relations to the provision in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 which entitles a cohabitee to pursue a claim under the Act only if she has been living with the deceased for at least two years,” Mr Allen added.

“This case is all about how unfair and outdated English law is. Society has changed and the law must always change with it.

“This case could change the law to ensure that those in Laurie’s position enjoy the same protection as others whose relationship differs only in the fact that it has had the chance to last for two years.”