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First corporate manslaughter conviction
23 January 2013
The Gloucestershire-based company, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd, has been convicted of corporate manslaughter in the first trial to test the new Corporate Manslaughter Act and to convict a company without the need to also prosecute the company director.
The company was sentenced and fined £385,000 payable over 10 years. The corporate manslaughter charge arose after company employee, Mr Alexander Wright, a junior geologist, was asphyxiated - he had been collecting soil samples from a three metre excavated pit when the sides of the pit collapsed. The jury at Winchester Crown Court returned a guilty verdict, confirming that the way in which the company's activities were organised had grossly breached its duty of care to Mr Wright, causing his death. The Court heard that the "1.2 metre rule" which required trenches of that depth or greater to be supported had not been followed despite an HSE reminder to Mr Eaton, the company's director, in 1995 about this rule and his reassurance that this would be followed in the future.
Commenting on the implications of the conviction, Sally Roff, of Beachcroft LLP said: "The Act's primary objective was to provide the opportunity for convictions to be obtained against large organisations responsible for deaths, following circumstances such as the disasters at Kings Cross and Alpha Piper, it remains to be seen whether the Act will be successful in securing convictions against organisations where the management structure and reporting lines are more complex."