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NRAH death inquest to begin two days after next election

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The Coroner’s inquest into the death of Jorge Castillo-Riffo on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site will begin two days after the next state election, InDaily can reveal.

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SafeWork secrecy

The construction worker was fatally crushed in a scissorlift on the site in late 2014.

His widow, Pam Gurner-Hall, told InDaily it was a relief to have confirmation the Coroner would investigate the circumstances of her partner’s death.

The revelation comes seven months after Premier Jay Weatherill promised an inquest into the death, during his address to a “Justice For Jorge” rally on the steps of Parliament House in April.

SafeWork SA dramatically abandoned its prosecution of the joint venture that managed the $2.3 billion build, Hanson Yunken Leighton Contractors, three days before the case due to begin in February this year.

Gurner-Hall has been told by the Coroner that the inquest will begin on Monday, March 19, 2018 – two days after South Australians go to the polls to select their next government.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General John Rau said the dates of Coroner’s inquests were determined by the Coroner, not by the Government.

Gurner-Hall said she hoped it would uncover exactly how her partner died, and “where culpability lies” for the incident.

“I can’t step back from the trauma of it until (Coroner Mark) Johns steps up,” she told InDaily.

“He’s the only one with the jurisdiction wide enough to see it the way I have seen it.

“I know how nervous he (Castillo-Riffo) was about working on that site.”

She said the legal and political systems had failed her in her mission to get “justice” for her partner, and a full understanding of how his death occurred.

“The legal system (and) the political system has let me down,” she said.

She argued it was a conflict of interest for a government department – SafeWork SA though the Crown Solicitor’s Office – to attempt to prosecute a contractor managing a Government project.

As InDaily revealed last month, SafeWork has refused to release the findings of a review into its repeated failures to successfully prosecute companies over deaths on construction sites since 2010.

Instead, it released the recommendations of the review which proposed improvements to the agency’s internal functioning, but there was no information about why SafeWork repeatedly abandoned, failed to launch, or failed to win prosecutions over the deaths.

Weatherill backed the decision to keep the findings secret.

“The findings contain matters which are ordinarily subject to legal professional privilege and there is no precedent for releasing it,” he said in a statement to InDaily at the time.

“We are exploring whether there are additional elements that can be disentangled from this legal advice and released.”

A spokesperson for the workplace safety watchdog told InDaily last month: “SafeWork SA is happy to continue speaking to Ms Gurner-Hall to update her on the progress of implementing these recommendations as we work to strengthen our work in the investigation and prosecution of work health and safety matters.”

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