In recent months, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued corporate manslaughter charges against four companies.
PS & JE Ward runs Belmont Nursery, a garden centre where Grzegorz Krystian Pieton was electrocuted on 15 July 2010 after the metal hydraulic lift trailer he was towing came into contact with an overhead power line.
In the months after the incident, the HSE served three prohibition notices. These concerned the operation of vehicles of a certain height working at or near overhead power lines; the movement of metal irrigation pipework without undertaking a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and implementing a safe system of work; and the use of the trailer after the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency found that the brakes did not work. An improvement notice was also issued requiring the company to provide instruction and training to employees relating to transport and deliveries near overhead power lines. Each of the notices was complied with. However, on 6 November 2012, the CPS confirmed that it considered there was sufficient evidence to charge the company with corporate manslaughter and s 2(1) HSWA.
The CPS has charged MNS Mining, the owner of the Gleision Colliery, with four counts of corporate manslaughter after four miners died at its South Wales site in 2011 when the working area was suddenly engulfed with water. The mine’s manager, Malcolm Fyfield has also been charged with gross negligence manslaughter. This is the first occasion on which a nondirector’s actions have been the basis for a corporate manslaughter charge, and may lead to judicial consideration of what amounts to “senior management” under the Act.
The third case involved the death of an 11 year old girl during a birthday party being held at the Prince’s Sporting Club in London on 11 September 2010. Mari-Simon Cronje sustained fatal injuries when she fell from a 6m inflatable banana boat and was then hit by the speedboat which was towing it. The club has been charged with corporate manslaughter and breach of s 3(1) with its director, Frederick Glen, facing a separate charge under s 37(1) HSWA.
Finally, in the fourth case in as many months, the CPS charged Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited with corporate manslaughter with the director, Mervyn Owens, facing a charge of gross negligence manslaughter and breach of s 37(1) HSWA following the death of their employee, Malcolm Hinton, on 6 March 2012. Whilst repairing a road sweeping truck, Mr Hinton had inadvertently removed the hydraulic hose which caused the back of the truck to fall onto him causing fatal crushing injuries. In addition to the main charge, the company is also facing charges under s 2(1) and Regulation 5(1) PUWER 1998.
With reports that the CPS opened 40% more corporate manslaughter cases in 2012 when compared to 2011, this may be the start of further spate of prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. We will provide further updates on the progress of these prosecutions in future bulletins.