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R v Ian Wilson: R v Craig Mainprize, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), 2 July 2004

20 July 2004
The issues

Health & Safety – Level of Fine Appropriate – Health & Safety at Work Act 1974

The facts

The Defendants provided diving courses on a part time basis. A husband and wife signed up to a basic training course. On the course after preliminary lectures and two successful dives the wife got into difficulties and, despite having a “buddy” attached to her, she panicked at a depth of 18 metres, pulled her mouthpiece out and was brought to the surface dead. Proceedings were brought alleging non compliance with the Diving at Work Regulations and Codes of Practice.

Both Defendants pleaded guilty to the charge of failing to conduct their undertaking in such a way as to ensure that persons on the diving course were not exposed to risks. Fines of £3,000.00 were levied on each Defendant by the Judge together with a costs order of £7,500.00 against each. The Defendants appealed against the level of fines and the costs.

The Judge found breaches of the Regulations. The Judge found that the Defendants had not adhered to the Regulations because they had been unaware of them rather than because they had been, as the prosecution had alleged, cavalier. However, the prosecution had failed to satisfy the Judge that the death had been caused or attributed to by any failures of the Defendants.

Fines of £3,000.00 each were imposed by the Judge and a costs order of £7,500.00 against each following guilty pleas for failing to undertake their undertaking in such a way to ensure the persons on a diving course was not exposed to risks under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 3. The Defendants appealed against the level of fines and the costs.

The decision

The fines were excessive and would be reduced to £1,500.00 each. The Court had accepted that there was no link between the Defendant’s breaches and the wife’s death and therefore it had to focus on how the breaches affected the general safety aspects of the undertaking. In similar cases lesser fines had been imposed on individuals whose conduct had produced strong criticism. The costs were even less satisfactory. Taking a broad brush approach the costs would be reduced to £4,000.00 each and the fines to £1,500.00 each.

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