Friday, 25 April 2014

First not guilty verdict in Corporate Manslaughter case

PS & JE Ward Limited has become the first company to be cleared of a charge of Corporate Manslaughter brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

This act was brought in because of accidents such as the Zeebrugge ferry disaster where there was difficulty in establishing who was the "controlling mind" in large organisations.
However, to date it has been applied to very small organisations.  The first was Cotswold Geotechnical who had less than 10 employees and PS & JE Ward is a farm.  One can argue that it has been misapplied so far and the PS & JE Ward verdict reinforces this.

Note that PS & JE Ward were convicted under the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974, and the  Sentencing Council Guidelines state that the fine for a death should be in the £100,000's.  The sentence will be determined in June.

This verdict does not mean that companies should be complacent.  In addition, directors and managers face a  likelihood of personal charges.

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