First Corporate Manslaughter Conviction

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd has this month become the first company to be convicted and sentenced under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The Company, which was described by the sentencing judge as being in “a parlous financial state” was fined £385,000 payable in 10 annual instalments of £38,500.

The conviction by jury followed a lengthy trial into the death of Alex Wright, a young geologist employed by the Company on 5th September 2008. Mr Wright was found to have been killed while investigating soil conditions  in a deep trench which collapsed on top of him.

In convicting the company, the jury found that the techniques employed in digging the trial pits were unnecessarily dangerous and that the Company had ignored recognised industry guidance in the area.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 came into force on 6th April 2008 and was heralded as a new era of corporate accountability for high profile incidents such as Herald of Free Enterprise Ferry Disaster, rail crashes and the Larkhall Explosion. These incidents were characterised by a failure to identify a “controlling mind” singly responsible for the loss of life. The new Act renders this process unnecessary.

Liability under the 2007 Act is something that every company should bear in mind.  Cotswold Geotechnical were able to take advantage of a number of mitigating factors, not least of which were that the Company was relatively small with only 8 employees. This means that future penalties are likely to be higher.

It is important to note that the Act also contains provisions for making negative publicity orders. This could have a disastrous effect on a company’s goodwill and repute.

Dyne Solicitors Limited – 01829 773100,

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