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First conviction under the Corporate Manslaughter Act



United Kingdom

First conviction under the Corporate Manslaughter Act

Following the successful prosecution and conviction of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, a second company, Manchester based Lion Steel, is being prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act. Read our alert.

A Gloucestershire company has become the first company to be convicted under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act.

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was convicted following the death of 27-year-old geologist Alexander Wright. Mr Wright died on 5 September 2008 whilst taking soil samples on behalf of the company at a construction site in Stround. Mr Wright was working in a 3.5 metres deep trench when it collapsed and buried him.

The prosecution said that it was dangerous for Mr Wright to be working in such a deep trench and that Cotswold Geotechnical had failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure his safety. In particular, the prosecution said that the company had ignored well-known industry guidance that prohibited entry into unsupported excavations more than 1.2 metres deep. The jury agreed and returned a guilty verdict following a three-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.

The sentence handed down by Mr Justice Field highlights the clear intention behind the new Corporate Manslaughter Act that companies ought to be punished by substantial fines, even if this might put the company in a precarious financial position. Cotswold Geotechnical was fined £385,000, payable at a rate of £38,500 a year over ten years. The relative significance of this fine is clear when one looks at the last full accounts filed by the company, which showed annual turnover of around £330,000. In sentencing, Mr Justice Field said "It may well be that the fine in the terms of its payment will put this company into liquidation. If that is the case it’s unfortunate but unavoidable. But it’s a consequence of the serious breach."

Our Corporate Risk Management Group is a cross-departmental group which advises clients on all health and safety matters. We offer a complete before and after-the-event service.

The group’s advisory function consists of safety planning and minimising risk. We advise clients on the modern approach to safety and work with them to build and implement robust safety systems in order to minimise risk. We have considerable experience of such work.

In addition to advising upon safety planning, the group represents clients in all claims which they may be faced with following a safety-related incident. These include criminal proceedings for corporate manslaughter, proceedings under the Health and Safety at Work Act, inquests, public enquiries and civil compensation claims. We have considerable experience in matters of this sort - both in the UK and overseas.

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