Lion Steel Limited has become the third company in the UK to be convicted of the statutory offence of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The company pleaded guilty on 3 July 2012 to the offence of corporate manslaughter at the conclusion of the prosecution case in a trial which started in June.
The case concerns the death of a man called Stephen Berry on 29 May 2008, who died following a fall through a fragile roof panel.
Shortly before the trial, the Judge severed the corporate manslaughter charge and the trial proceeded against the company on health and safety charges, and against three individual directors on charges of gross negligence manslaughter and health and safety charges. Following a submission at the conclusion of the prosecution case, the cases of gross negligence manslaughter were dismissed against two of the directors. Following this, a decision was made by the company, with the agreement of the prosecution and the approval of the court, that the company would plead guilty to corporate manslaughter but that all charges against the directors would be dropped.
Sentencing of the company was adjourned until 19 July 2012.
Two companies previously convicted of this offence, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd and JMW Farms Ltd received fines of £385,000 and £187,500 respectively. The Sentencing Guidelines Council published guidance in 2010 suggesting that fines for corporate manslaughter should seldom be less than £500,000 and may be measured in the millions. Of the three companies convicted so far Lion Steel is the largest and so it will be interesting to see what level of fine is imposed, and whether it approaches the levels suggested in the guidance.
A Publicity Order (a requirement for the convicted company to publicise its conviction in a manner prescribed by the court) will not be available in this case as the offence was committed before the part of the act came into force that gives the sentencing judge the power to make such an order.