Tuesday 23 January 2018

Berkeley charges 'are still possible'

The fourth floor apartment in Berkeley, California where the tragedy unfolded.
The fourth floor apartment in Berkeley, California where the tragedy unfolded.
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Criminal prosecutions are still possible on two fronts over the Berkeley balcony collapse which claimed the lives of six Irish students and seriously injured seven others.

Prosecutors in the US say they could revisit criminal charges after a civil suit by the survivors and the families of victims is concluded.

Separately, it has emerged that a different investigation by a licensing board for building contractors is close to completion and could yet result in criminal proceedings against several companies.

The district attorney for Alameda County in California announced on Tuesday that no criminal charges are being brought following a nine-month investigation into the tragedy.

Nancy O'Malley said she did not believe it would be possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual or company committed manslaughter through criminal negligence.

However, Kevin Dunleavy, the chief assistant district attorney, said yesterday that a criminal case could be revisited after the multi-million dollar civil lawsuits have concluded.

He said this would happen if new evidence emerges during the civil actions.

Mr Dunleavy said prosecutors would be open to looking at any new information suggesting there was criminal negligence.

Meanwhile, a separate probe by the Contractors State Licence Board in California could also end up with criminal proceedings being taken to strip building firms of their licences.

In a statement, it said its probe, looking at the five construction companies that helped build the Library Gardens building in Berkeley, is close to completion.

If the board rules that the contractors' licenses should be stripped, their cases will be handed over to the California attorney general's office and prosecuted in the state administrative court, the statement said.

The board's chief of enforcement, David Fogt, said the probe was examining whether the various contractors involved followed the architectural plans for the balcony, including the use of the proper building materials, and whether workmanship standards were followed.

Irish Independent

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