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First Corporate Manslaughter Prosecution in North Ireland

In the first corporate manslaughter prosecution in Northern Ireland, a pig farming company was fined 187,000 (approx €232,000) (reported in Health and Safety Review June 2012)The case of R v JMW Farm Limited, Belfast Crown Court, June 2012 concerned a worker who was killed when a large metal bin toppled and fell on him. The company accepted its responsibility for the death of the worker and accepted it managed its activities in a way that amounted to a gross breach of the duty of care it owed to the worker. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 provides that an organisation can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.   The judge examined the safety of the operation in which the worker was killed and said that inherent in the safe operation of the raising and positioning of the bin was that the forks of the forklift fitted into the sleeves of the underside of the bin. That the bin was able to fall was, the judge said “clear evidence” that the forks were not inserted into the pins. The judge stated that this was an inherent and foreseeable danger.An interesting and important part of the decision was were the guidelines published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council of England Wales which although are not applicable in Northern Ireland, the Judge saw no “reason not to adopt the helpful guide”. The court looked at a number of mitigating factors together with the financial means of the defendant to pay a fine and concluded that the offence was a serious one, requiring a substantial fine, both to reflect the culpability of the company and to send a message to all employers. The judge decided the appropriate fine was 250,000 which was reduced by 25% to reflect the guilty plea.

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