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First corporate manslaughter case begins today

25 February 2010

Today, the first prosecution to be brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 begins at Bristol Crown Court.

A Cotswold based company, Geotechnical Holdings Limited has been charged with an offence arising from the death of a geologist who was killed when a pit collapsed as he was taking soil samples at a property in Brimscombe. The companys sole director, Peter Eaton, also faces a charge of manslaughter and both Mr Eaton and his company face charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Despite the introduction of the Act, and the pending prosecution at Bristol Crown Court, there still appears to be an appetite for greater regulation of companies when it comes to issues of health and safety. Backbench Labour MP, Frank Doran, has introduced a Private Members Bill to amend the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to place a specific positive duty on company directors to ensure health and safety in their organisations.

The Health and Safety (Company Director Liability) Bill had its first reading in Parliament on 19 January 2010 and is scheduled for a second reading on 23 April 2010.

In support of the Bill, Doran said,

"My Bill will place a positive duty on all company directors to take all reasonable steps to ensure health and safety in all aspects of the companys activities - effectively to put them in the same position as all other employers and to remove a glaring anomaly in our health and safety laws."

The current prosecution and proposal for yet further legislation highlight the need to ensure effective health and safety systems are in place such that, in the event of serious accident or fatality, a company would feel confident of defending itself during the ensuing police and HSE investigation.

For further information in relation to the prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, or for further information in relation to the Health and Safety (Company Director Liability) Bill please get in touch.

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