Sherwood Rise Limited was fined £300,000 for corporate manslaughter on Friday 5 February 2016 following the death of a resident in 2012. This concludes an investigation which commenced after an elderly resident was found to be dehydrated and malnourished at the Autumn Grange care home in Nottingham after concerns about standards of care were raised by staff. The resident passed away after being moved to a different care home following an adverse inspection report from the Care Quality Commission.
The CQC report made the following observations:
“The staff we spoke with were not confident about people’s care needs and we were not confident about the arrangements in place to meet these needs.”
“People were not protected from the risks of inadequate nutrition and dehydration.”
“During the inspection we saw multiple examples of neglectful care in practice and in records.”
At the same hearing, a director of Sherwood Rise Limited was sentenced to three years and two months imprisonment for gross negligence manslaughter and a further employee was sentenced to one year imprisonment (suspended) for a health and safety offence. Charges brought against other directors for gross negligence manslaughter were dropped at earlier hearings.
Sherwood Rise Limited is classed as a micro organisation under the new Guideline and despite no longer operating at the time of sentencing and having a significantly reduced turnover it appears that the band was rigidly applied following the company’s guilty plea.
Separately, the healthcare sector has seen the collapse of a corporate manslaughter trial following the death of a woman shortly after she gave birth to her second child. In the first prosecution of an NHS trust under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2008, the Judge ruled that the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust had no case to answer after hearing the prosecution evidence. A locum anaesthetist was also found to have no case to answer in respect of a gross negligence manslaughter charge. A third defendant (the anaesthetist with primary responsibility for the patient) left the jurisdiction during the investigation and so did not face trial.
These cases highlight the increased scrutiny being placed on the healthcare sector by the regulator and by the press. When coupled with the increased penalties set out within the new Sentencing Council Guideline where large organisations with a turnover of £50 million or more can be fined up to £20 million for corporate manslaughter (with organisations significantly over this threshold being fined proportionately more), healthcare clients should seek early advice following an incident to understand the potential implications.