Corporate Manslaughter

An English company has been the first to be convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Last month Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Limited was found guilty of corporate manslaughter after a geologist died when a 3.5m deep trench in which he was investigating soil conditions collapsed. The jury found that, by ignoring industry guidance that prohibits entry into excavations more than 1.2 metres deep, the company failed to take reasonably practicable steps to protect him.

Although the case against one of the company’s directors for gross negligence manslaughter (which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment) was stayed on the basis of his ill health, the court was able to convict the company for corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Act 2007 which came into force in April 2008.

The company was fined £385,000, a sum which equates to 116 per cent of the company’s annual turnover.

The case demonstrates that no business can afford to ignore the duty of care that it owes to its employees and must ensure that its health and safety policies are adequate.

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