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Health and Safety Law Update – Corporate Manslaughter fine of £480,000 for UK Company

In a recent briefing from the Health and Safety Review, the long awaited decision in the corporate manslaughter prosecution case of Crown Prosecution Service v Lion Steel Limited : Manchester Crown Court July 2012 has been concluded.The Company pleaded guilty to a corporate manslaughter charge was fined £480,000 or €617,000 earlier this month at Manchester Crown Court. The case related to a worker who was employed as a maintenance man and who fell through a roof at one of the company’s factories. It appeared that parts of the roof the worker was working on was old and he stood on a fibreglass roof light which became detached leaving a gap which the worker fell through to his death.Along with the Company being charged with committing corporate manslaughter, three directors of the company were also charged with committing the offence of common law manslaughter. The judge heard divided these issues into two separate parts. During the hearing of the case against the directors, the judge dismissed the charges against two of the directors. The company then offered to plead guilty to the charge of corporate manslaughter against it and the prosecution stated it would be offering no evidence in the case against the third director. The three directors were acquitted. The court then heard the case against the company.In imposing sentence the Judge stated that the worker was not a trained roofer and had not been provided with a harness and line and no precautions were taken by the company in case anything went wrong. The fine of £480,000 was imposed after the court held that there was a gross breach of duty by the company.Prior to sentencing, Lionsteel handed in three years’ of accounts, indicating average turnover of £10m, with profit of between £180,000 and £370,000 per annum. The judge acknowledged that the company relies on loans to exist and had ‘not engaged in extravagance’. The Sentencing Guidelines Council’s published guidance suggests that fines for corporate manslaughter should seldom be less than £500,000 and may be measured in millions (outlined at paragraph 24 of the Guidelines attached). It it also of interest to note at paragraphs 15 and 16 that the Sentencing Guidelines provide inter alia that:“A fixed correlation between the fine and either turnover or profit is not appropriate”.”The court should, however, look carefully at both turnover and profit, and also at assets, in order to gauge the resources of the defendant”.I have also attached a link to the sentencing remarks of His Jonour Justice Gilbart QC, Honorary Recorder of Manchester which makes for some interesting reading.

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