Lawyers predict prosecutions could be brought against larger firms
The UK’s first corporate manslaughter trial – concerning a geologist crushed to death in a pit he was excavating – began in court yesterday.
The prosecution against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings is the first to be brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.
Under the legislation, which came into effect in April 2008, companies can be convicted irrespective of whether a manager or director can be personally held liable.
Lawyers predict the Act could be used to prosecute large construction firms over accidents involving workers.
Under previous legislation, prosecutions were rare because of the requirement to name an individual. The larger the organisation, the less likely that there would be any direct senior management involvement in the accident itself and the harder it was to prove to a criminal standard that the manager was responsible for any deaths.
This will be a useful starting point in interpreting the scope of the new offense and in particular what is to be regarded as ‘senior management’
Fiona Gill, Davies Arnold Cooper
The trial is being heard at Winchester Crown Court and is expected to last three weeks.
Fiona Gill, partner in the construction team at Davies Arnold Cooper, said: “Although this case will attract interest as it is the first prosecution to be brought under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007, it is perhaps not the test case many will have hoped for.
“The purpose of the Act was to allow for the prosecution of larger organisations due to difficulties with the previous law. The case brought against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, apparently an owner-managed business, will give us limited insight into how the new law may be applied to larger organisations.
“However, it will be a useful starting point in interpreting the scope of the new offense and in particular what is to be regarded as ‘senior management’.