Last month saw the first corporate manslaughter case sentenced under the new guidelines. As the case involved a care home, it was also the first conviction for corporate manslaughter in that sector.
The case concerned the death of a pensioner in November 2012 following a stay at a Nottingham care home. After three inspections by the Quality Care Commission, leading to a warning being issued, and concerns by staff that the company was providing inadequate care, Autumn Grange was closed down on 5 November 2012. The residents were placed in alternative accommodation, but Ivy Atkin, found to be suffering from dehydration, malnutrition and an untreated bed sore, died less than three weeks later. Having spent a period of 48 days in the care home, during which time her health plummeted, there was no possibility of recovery.
Sherwood Rise Limited, the company which owned the care home, pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter in December 2015 and became the first case of its kind to be sentenced under the new guidelines, which came into force on 1 February 2016. Although the company has ceased trading, the court appears to have sentenced in line with the company’s turnover as it was in 2012. The company was fined £300,000, which is in line with the guidelines for micro companies, that is, companies with a turnover of not more than £2,000,000. The managing director of Sherwood Rise Limited pleaded guilty to gross negligence manslaughter and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and was disqualified from being a company director for a period of eight years.
There has been a recent rise in the number of prosecutions in the health care sector, although none has been successful until now. However, it is likely that the implications of this case will be felt by many in the healthcare sector as more and more of these cases are brought to court.