A company and mining manager have been found "not guilty" of the manslaughter of four colleagues who died in a tragic mining accident in South Wales. The company, MNS Mining was charged with Corporate Manslaughter and the mining manager with four charges of manslaughter. Last week, following a three month trial at Swansea Crown Court, it is reported the jury took less than two hours to find the manager and company not guilty of all charges.
On 15 September 2011, four workers drowned when around 650,000 gallons of water flooded the mine while they were carrying out work involving explosives inside the mine. The Crown’s case against the company and manager was based on the alleged failure to conduct adequate safety checks behind the coal face before instructing workers to blast it. Evidence was led from witnesses and experts on this point; the mining manager argued that he had inspected the mine three times to ensure the work could be carried out safely. It is reported that the expert Geologist said it was "possible" and "probable" that the water had collected after the mining manager’s inspections.
It is the third trial under the 2007 legislation, and the first case where manslaughter charges against an individual, in conjunction with corporate manslaughter charges, have been defended in full. In previous cases, charges against directors have been dropped when the company tendered a guilty plea, without a trial taking place. In the Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings trial, charges against the director and owner were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service as a result of the individual’s poor health.
We continue to see an increase in charges being brought against individuals, for health and safety matters. With the potential for extensive penalties, and adverse impact on reputation, companies, and their directors, should be mindful of the increasing number of prosecutions being brought under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, albeit, in this case, unsuccessfully.