P&O operated a freight service and a yard at the port at Liverpool. In the yard P&O employees loaded and off-loaded containers to and from ferries. The containers were lifted from the HGVs by large trucks. An employee of P&O standing in the yard was struck by one of these trucks in operation and killed.

The Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation into the accident and found that P & O had failed to ensure the safety of its employees in a number of respects and had failed to ensure that the dock premises used by all employees were suitable and adequately lit. The HSE brought a prosecution against P&O for failure to ensure, as reasonably as practicable, the health and safety at work of its employees under s. 2(1) of the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 and for failure ensure that the dock premises were adequately lit under Regulation 6(1) of the Docks Regulations 1988.

P&O pleaded guilty to the two offences and were fined £250,000 under the 1974 Act and £50,000 under the 1988 Regulations.

P&O appealed against the sentence on the grounds that it was excessive. Mitigating factors advanced were that a guilty plead had been entered at the first opportunity, there had been no previous convictions or similar offences, that the breaches of duty had been careless not deliberate or reckless and were not occasioned by any costs savings or financial motives.