A company in Norfolk has become the subject of the fourth prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 since the implementation of the legislation in April 2008. The organisation – specialising in horticultural supply – has been charged with corporate manslaughter following the death of a worker at its Belmont Nursery site in July 2010.
Grzegorz Pieton, 26, died from an electric shock whilst working for Belmont Nursery when the metal hydraulic trailer he was towing touched an overhead power line. The nursery operator, PS & JE Ward Ltd, faces charges of corporate manslaughter and also of breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, s2(1), for a failure to ensure safety of its employees.
The corporate manslaughter prosecution is only the fourth in the UK, with two previous convictions in England and Wales, and one in Northern Ireland. To date, no prosecutions have taken place in Scotland for the equivalent offence of corporate homicide.
The result of the Act is that an organisation can be found guilty of an offence if a fatality is caused by a gross breach of a relevant duty of care, and if the senior management in the company organised its activities in a way that formed a substantial element of that breach. Conviction can result in unlimited fine levels, with Guidance on the Act marking a general starting point for fines at £500,000. To date, however, the fines imposed have been much lower. The highest charge was that against Lion Steel Ltd in July this year, at the level of £480,000.
PS & JE Ward Ltd appeared at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court on 23 November 2012. Following this hearing, the case was remitted to Norwich Crown Court where the manslaughter charge will be heard. The case called at Norwich Crown Court on 6th December for a preliminary hearing. It will call again for a mention hearing on 19th December 2012, and thereafter a provisional date of 14th February 2013 has been set for a plea and direction hearing.