Another UK company has been charged with corporate manslaughter. A Norfolk garden nursery, PS & JE Ward, has been charged in relation to the death of an employee two years ago. The employee was electrocuted when the metal hydraulic lift trailer he was towing touched an overhead power line. A provisional date of 14 February 2013 has been set for a plea and direction hearing before Norwich Crown Court.
This is the fourth UK company to be prosecuted with corporate manslaughter since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in April 2008. Conviction can result in an unlimited fine. The Guidelines, published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, state that fines for corporate manslaughter will seldom be less than £500,000. To date, Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Limited has been fined almost £385,000 after the death of an employee when a trench collapsed; JMW Farms was fined £187,500 plus £13,000 costs when an employee suffered fatal crush injuries on a pig farm; and Lion Steel Limited was fined £480,000 plus £84,000 in costs after an employee fell through a fragile roof.
There is no Irish equivalent to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, nor is there any Government Bill or Draft Scheme, despite the Irish Law Reform Commission reporting on the need for criminal liability in the area of corporate manslaughter back in 2005.
Under the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005, the Health & Safety Authority has responsibility for prosecuting those in charge of the workplace for breaches of the legislation. The maximum penalties under the 2005 Act are €3 million and/or two years’ imprisonment. Under the 2005 Act, managers and directors can be made liable and proceeded against directly for failures.
To view our previous articles on corporate manslaughter prosecutions in R v Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Limited and R v JMW Farm Limited and in R v Lion Steel Equipment Limited.