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trial date set for second corporate manslaughter case

12 September 2011

Trial date set

The second ever corporate manslaughter prosecution under the new CMCHA (Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide) Act 2007 has now been confirmed as proceeding to trial, with a trial date set by Manchester Crown Court for 12 June 2012.

The case involves the death of an individual who fell through a fragile roof panel on an industrial estate in Manchester in May 2008 and sadly died as a result of his injuries.

Lion Steel Equipment Ltd, the company in charge of the works, has been charged with the corporate offence of Corporate Manslaughter under the new legislation and also faces further charges under sections 2 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to ensure the safety of its employees.

Three of the company directors (Kevin Palliser, Richard Williams and Graham Coupe) have been charged with gross negligence manslaughter alongside a s.37 charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which deals with liability of directors, managers and officers in relation to issues of consent, connivance and/or neglect of their health and safety duties.

Prior to the new act coming into force, previous corporate manslaughter legislation was focused upon identifying which directors amounted to the controlling mind of the company. This became particularly difficult for the prosecution to identify and prove and resulted in many prosecutions failing due to the complex nature of the tests involved.

The new CMCHA removed the controlling mind element of the offence and broke it down into certain specific factors to be proven i.e. the way in which activities are managed or organised, causing a death and amounting to a gross breach of the relevant duty of care.

As this offence is still so new, case law establishing the boundaries of the new legislation is, at present, based purely on the first ever case under the new act - the prosecution of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings. This case involved the death of an individual investigating soil conditions in a trench and resulted in a fine for that company of £385,000.

As Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was a relatively small company however, this first prosecution failed to examine in any great depth the tests outlined within the new act and how these could be applied in larger organisations with more complex management structures.

Due to the size of Lion Steel Equipment Ltd in comparison to Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, it is likely that the courts will be required through the trial in June of next year, to interpret the legislation and thereby provide more detailed guidance to practitioners and health and safety advisers alike as to the remit and parameters of the new offence.

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