After a slow start to cases being pursued under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, there has been a recent upsurge with the following noteworthy cases.
CAV Aerospace Ltd hit with record fine under Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
Paul Bowers, a 47-year old, was fatally injured when a pile of metal being delivered to his workplace at Cambridge Airport toppled onto him. It was alleged that the metal stock had been placed dangerously high as it was being delivered.
CAV Aerospace (the company) was responsible for ordering and maintaining stock. It denied charges of corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. However, an Old Bailey jury reached a guilty verdict and the company was fined £600,000 and £400,000 for the two offences to run concurrently. It was also ordered to pay £125,000 costs.
This is the largest fine yet imposed for corporate manslaughter, adhering to the Sentencing Council’s guideline that fines of this nature “will seldom be less than £500,000”. When determining the fine, the court noted that although the company was large it was not making “vast amounts of money – at least at present”.
The case is also interesting from the perspective that it was the first brought against a parent company when the incident had occurred on the subsidiary’s premises. The evidence put forward by the prosecution was that all operational decisions regarding the purchasing, delivery and storage of materials fell within the responsibility of the parent company. The company had ignored persistent warnings about the dangers of falling stacks of materials in the three years prior to the incident. The HSE found six near misses all logged on the company’s database but where no action was taken.
The charges for corporate manslaughter resulted from collective failings at senior management level. There were a number of mitigating factors. These were that the company had been full and open with the HSE and went beyond what “will always be expected” using the Sentencing Council’s guideline. The company had also carried out significant changes to working practices with severe disciplinary action against employees who breached the new working systems; one of which had resulted in dismissal. The company had spent significant sums implementing these changes, providing support and counselling to Mr Bowers’ family and making payments in addition to any damages or other payments Mr Bowers and his family were entitled to. The company had a previously good health and safety record with no prior prosecution or enforcements. It also had a generally good attitude to health and safety with managers able to make any changes on site and being trained to a “fairly high level” on health and safety, and regular reports being made to the senior management.
Despite these mitigating factors, however, the seriousness of the company’s conduct when handling the delivery of materials left them with a record fine.
NHS Trust and two doctors charged over death of woman during emergency caesarean
This is the first time a health Trust has been prosecuted for corporate manslaughter since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in 2008.
Frances Cappuccini, aged 30, died within a few hours of giving birth to her second son at Tunbridge Wells Hospital in October 2012. She had required an emergency caesarean operation.
Alongside the prosecution of the Trust, Dr Cornish, a consultant anaesthetist, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter. At a hearing in August 2015, he was released on bail ahead of another hearing due to be heard in October.
An international arrest warrant remains in place for Dr Nadeem Azeez who was also involved in the operation. He is believed to have left the UK and returned to Pakistan. The CPS has authorised a charge of gross negligence manslaughter against Dr Azeez.
A trial date of 11 January 2016 has been set with the likely venue being a central London court.
Linley Developments fined £200,000 for corporate manslaughter
This case involved the death of 28-year-old bricklayer, Gareth Jones, who was fatally injured when an unstable retaining wall collapsed at a construction site in St Albans. Only two days prior to the incident, the managing director of the principal contractor, Linley Developments, visited the site and discovered that the foundations for a store room would be higher than in an adjacent building. The workers were therefore instructed to dig the foundations lower, but without underpinning it.
The court found that no risk assessment or method statement was prepared for the excavation and that there was a failure to support the wall as the trench around it became lower. Linley Developments was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000 after pleading guilty to the charge of corporate manslaughter on 7 September 2015.
The court also exercised its power under s10 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, making a publicity order against the company.
The managing director and project manager were both given prison sentences of six months, suspended in each case for two years after both pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 28 and 31 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The MD was also fined £25,000 and the project manager £5,000. The court had considered disqualifying the MD but in the end chose not to do so.
The MD and project manager also faced charges of gross negligence manslaughter but these were withdrawn after their respective admissions of the charges brought under the CDM Regulations.
Director imprisoned for 8 months following the death of 16-year old apprentice
16-year old Cameron Minshull was working as a £3-per-hour apprentice for Huntley Mount Engineering. On 8 January 2013 the teenager became entangled within a steel cutting machine and suffered fatal injuries. He had been placed at the company by an employment agency, Lime People Training Solutions, which received a £4,500 grant from the government as part of its Skills Training Agency.
During the hearing at Manchester Crown Court the company was found to have paid virtually no regard for the health and safety of its employees. Judge David Stockdale commented that “These young men – inadequately trained, inexperienced, unqualified and virtually unsupervised – were effectively left to their own devices in a workshop containing fast running, unguarded machinery.” He said the “… horrific accident was an accident waiting to happen”.
The Court did not hold back in applying its sentencing powers as a reminder that there will be heavy penalties with such a significant failure to protect employees.
The company was fined £150,000 after pleading guilty to corporate manslaughter. The company’s director, Zaffar Hussain, was sentenced to eight months in prison and disqualified as a director for 10 years. His son, who was a senior supervisor, received a four month sentence suspended for one year, 200 hours of community service and a £3,000 fine. They were each ordered to pay £15,000 in costs.
The case was of interest because the employment agency was also convicted. The agency was fined £75,000 under s3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This was due to their failure to ensure that Cameron Minshull was placed in a safe working environment. This highlights the importance of an agency ensuring so far as reasonably practicable that its acts and omissions in arranging work placements do not place a person in danger.