May 4, 2009 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accident and Lessons Learned: First UK Corporate Manslaughter Act Prosecution Authorized

Issue 16 of the ROSPA’s Safety Connection reported the following:


First corporate manslaughter charge – Pit death

DirectorOn April 23, 2009, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) authorised a charge of corporate manslaughter against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd in relation to the death of Alexander Wright on September 5, 2008.

This is the first application of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which came into effect on April 6, 2008.

Junior geologist Mr Wright, an employee of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, was crushed to death when the sides of an excavated pit collapsed whilst he was taking soil samples during a site survey.

As a result of his death, Peter Eaton, a director of the company, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter and with an offence contrary to Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd has also been charged, as an organisation, with failing to discharge a duty contrary to Section 33, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The CPS Special Crime Division’s reviewing lawyer, Kate Leonard, stated that they have concluded that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for this offence.

Mr Eaton will appear at Stroud Magistrate’s Court on June 17, and faces charges as an individual and on behalf of the company. If convicted for gross negligence manslaughter, he could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; a conviction for corporate manslaughter could attract an unlimited fine.

This case should serve as a stark reminder that organisations must not neglect their duty of care to employees, and of the heavy penalties that could be faced if they do.

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Life in prison and an unlimited fine after an accident. That’s what corporate executives might face after a fatality in the UK.

Are you prepared to respond if the unthinkable happens – a fatality at one of your sites in the UK?

Would you be interested in a review of your preparedness by experienced criminal investigators with extensive accident experience and a custom course to prepare your company for the unexpected but real possibility of a criminal investigation after an accident?

If so, drop me a note by clicking here, and I’ll pass along information about the new Corporate Manslaughter Act review/course that we will be offering soon.

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