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EILENBURG, Germany-A German court has convicted a British property developer of negligent manslaughter after the 1995 death of a British worker at a construction site in Leipzig.
Leonard Stacey's death raised many questions about the adequacy of health and safety standards for overseas workers employed on the thousands of construction sites throughout the former East Germany.
The conviction in the Eilenburg criminal court of British subcontractor David Carter, who received a five-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 8,000 deutsche marks ($4,600), and of German property developer Richard Unterhuber, who was fined 14,000 deutsche marks ($8,100), will "make building contractors and subcontractors take notice now that they realize they can be criminally prosecuted," said a spokesman for the U.K.-based Construction Safety Campaign.
It is the first time a developer has been prosecuted for the death of a foreign worker in Europe, the spokesman said.
Tens of thousands of British and Irish construction workers have been working on building sites in Berlin and other cities in the former East Germany during the 1990s, and hundreds have been hurt or killed, he said.
Robert Evans, a member of the European Parliament, has been pressing the European Commission to investigate safety practices on German building sites as a result of the deaths. Mr. Evans, who represents Northwest London in the European Parliament, claims many non-German workers, from other European countries such as Britain and Portugal, are working on unsafe construction sites that German authorities are not regulating.
Although Germany has strict health and safety regulations governing construction, many of the building contractors are non-German companies employing non-German citizens. Those contractors thereby avoid German legislation, said a spokesman for Mr. Evans. However, most of the workers are European citizens and still should be protected by E.C. Health and Safety legislation, he claimed.
According to IG Bau, the Frankfurt, Germany-based German labor union, more than 200 construction workers died on German building sites during 1996.