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R v Clifton Steel Limited, Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), 13 June 2007

6 July 2007
The issues

Health & Safety Executive – health & safety offences – appropriate fine.

The facts

The Defendant was a company that bought steel in coil form and processed it into sheets before selling it on. The person who had been issued was lowering and manoeuvring a steel coil which weighed approximately 9 tonnes. The coil was on the top of a stack which was 3 coils high. As the coil was manoeuvred using a crane, a stack behind moved causing the victim to be crushed between the suspended coil he had been manoeuvring and the coil that had moved from the stack behind him. He died. The company pleaded guilty and was fined £150,000.00. The company appealed against the level of the fine.

The decision

The company had not failed to adhere to any recognised code because there was no guidance regarding steel stock holding. However there had been no risk assessment of the hazards involved in removing the steel coils from the stacks. There was an innovative method used by the company and after the accident the Health & Safety Executive carried out tests which revealed some areas of concern. The Judge appeared to have adopted a starting point of £200,000.00. Fines should exceed £100,000.00 only in really serious cases. As the number of cases in which health & safety breaches had resulted in a death, only 3.6% of those liable were ordered to pay £150,000.00 or more. The Court had to have regard to the degree of culpability and the damage caused, the previous offending record of the company and the attitude and actions it took afterwards. The company had co-operated fully and had entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. It had taken steps to improve Health & Safety procedures and was genuinely remorseful. The balance had to be struck between penalising the company and the need to maintain a business to protect existing employees. The penalty was manifestfully excessive and the fine of £100,000.00 was substituted.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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