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First Conviction Under New Corporate Manslaughter Law | DFA Law Northampton Solicitors News

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

A workplace death in 2008 has led to the first conviction of a company under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Alexander Wright, who was 27 at the time of his death, was investigating soil conditions in a pit when it collapsed, killing him. In the first successful prosecution under the Act, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was found guilty of corporate manslaughter over his death. The company was fined £385,000, which it has the option of paying over a 10-year period due to its present financial position. Charges against the company’s managing director were dropped in October last year owing to his ill-health.

The Act was passed to make it easier to prosecute companies over health and safety breaches resulting in fatalities. Previously, it was necessary to identify a ‘controlling mind’, usually a director of the company, in order to establish criminal liability. This proved especially difficult in the case of larger entities: the only successful prosecution under the previous legislation involved a one-man company. There were several noteworthy failed prosecutions – in particular regarding the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster and the Hatfield rail crash.

Says Jeremy Walker, “This case involved a small company where executive responsibility was easier to establish: indeed, the judge stated that the director who could not be prosecuted due to his ill-health ‘was in substance the company’. It remains to be seen how effective the Act will be in prosecutions of larger organisations.”

We can advise you on any aspect of health and safety law.

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