Ten years after the death of 5-year-old Mason Jones from E. coli O157:H7, Lord Justice of Appeal Patrick Elias has decided to let the 2010 inquest into the boy’s death stand. Elias found there was “no error in law” during the inquest in which William Tudor, owner of the Tudor and Sons butcher shop in Bridgend, Wales, admitted food safety violations. The butcher shop supplied 40 schools in south Wales with contaminated meat, which sickened 160 people in the E. coli outbreak that took Mason’s life. Tudor served one year in jail in 2007 for seven separate violations of Welsh food hygiene regulations. However, at the time, the Crown Prosecution Service did not think there was enough evidence to charge the butcher with manslaughter. In 2013, Mason’s parents met with Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer and he agreed to reopen the case. Barrister Mark Heywood was asked to prepare a report, which concluded there was evidence that Tudor knew the E. coli O157 strain could be deadly. It was enough for prosecutors to change their minds and conclude there was enough evidence for a gross negligent manslaughter to go to a jury. But the current Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, also concluded it was too late to bring the charges. Mason’s parents, Sharon Mills and Nathan Jones, then asked the High Court to reopen the 2010 inquest into their son’s death. They argued that Tudor could have foreseen the fatal outbreak and the coroner made a mistake by concluding that an unlawful killing verdict couldn’t be justified. Elias, however, did not agree and kept the findings of the 2010 inquest intact. The 2005 Welsh outbreak was subjected to an independent investigation by Professor Hugh Pennington, who is among the U.K.’s top food safety experts. His March 2009 report found that “very serious failings” at Tudor and Sons caused the fatal outbreak. For example, a vacuum packing machine was used to package both raw and cooked meat without being properly cleaned between batches and thereby causing cross-contamination. Mason’s parents reacted by acknowledging the High Court ruling is likely the final word. “I don’t think our son will ever have any justice,” his mother told the BBC. “I think the justice system has firmly closed that door for us.” She added that the family is looking into whether legal action might be brought against the Crown Prosecution Service.
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