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Third Corporate Manslaughter Conviction
23 January 2013
Lion Steel Limited has become the third company in the UK to be convicted of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. On 3 July 2012 the company pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter in a case concerning the death of employee Stephen Berry on 29 May 2008, who died from injuries following a fall through a fragile roof panel
The prosecution was brought against Lion Steel on health and safety charges, and against three of the company's directors on health and safety charges and charges of gross negligence manslaughter.However an agreement was reached that the company would plead guilty to corporate manslaughter but that all charges against the directors would be dropped. Sentencing has been adjourned until 19 July 2012.
Commenting on the conviction, Jonathon Grimes, health and safety expert at Kingsley Napely LLP: â€œThis case is important because it is only the third conviction under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Despite criticisms of the Act and the way it has been policed, it sends a clear message that prosecutions under the Act are being actively pursued and the risks for companies that do not take health and safety issues seriously. â€œ
â€œBeyond that its significance is limited however, because the conviction, which is the result of the company pleading guilty, is the result of an agreement reached between the parties that seems to have been designed to spare the company's directors from personal criminal liability. The case has not provided any further insight into the way in which trials of companies for this offence are likely to unfold.â€
â€œIt remains to be seen whether on this occasion the court will impose a fine approaching the level suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines Council in their guidance published in 2010. They suggested convictions for corporate manslaughter ought to result in fines of not less than £500,000. In the previous two cases the companies involved were sentenced to pay fines of £385,000 and £187,500 respectively.â€
A Publicity Order (a requirement for the convicted company to publicise its conviction in a manner prescribed by the court) will not be available in this case as the offence was committed before the part of the act came into force that gives the sentencing judge the power to make such an order.