Corporate Manslaughter & Health and Safety Offences
In the immediate aftermath of a work - related fatality or serious injury, seeking professional legal advice is imperative for those who may be subject to an enquiry.
Our specialist lawyers within the Regulatory Department at ABV Solicitors are highly regarded for their expertise nationwide in defending those who may be subject to an Investigation or Prosecution and protecting their interests.
We advise and represent both Corporate Organisations and Individuals including Directors, Office Holders and Employees facing Health and Safety investigations. We cover the full spectrum of Corporate and Health and Safety offences including work related fatalities and or serious injury.
We represent Organisations and Individuals from all industry sectors including services, retail, construction, education, care homes, transport, professional services and the health sector.
These cases often require the instruction, at an early stage, of independent experts in specific technical fields. ABV Solicitors have access to leading specialists in a variety of fields who add their expertise to the defence legal team.
We work closely with the most eminent Kings Counsel and Barristers in the Country who specialise in this field.
ABV Solicitors are available 24/7 to provide immediate, and professional advice upon request.
The offence of Corporate Manslaughter came into force on the 6th April 2008 and was introduced to improve public safety by ensuring companies and other corporate organisations could be held accountable for serious failings which resulted in death.
Only companies or corporate organisations can be convicted of this offence. Individuals are normally subject to other parallel offences including Gross Negligence Manslaughter and offences contrary to the Health and Safety Work Act 1974.
The offence of Corporate Manslaughter was created by Section 1 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
The sentencing guidelines for those companies/corporate organisations found guilty are extremely severe with fines often running into millions of pounds. This can often have the consequences of forcing companies into liquidation or to suffer severe hardship.
In addition to these draconian fines, the Courts are imposing strict publicity orders and remedial orders which can also have a profound and adverse impact on businesses.
Whilst there have not been many prosecutions since the CMCHA 2007 came into force, for those unfortunate to be investigated or prosecuted, the ordeal can be traumatic and potentially catastrophic.
In order for the prosecution to secure a conviction for Corporate Manslaughter, they must prove the following,
- That the defendant is a qualifying organisation.
- That the organisation owed a duty of care to the deceased.
- There was a gross breach of that duty by the organisation.
- The way in which the organisation’s activities were managed or organised, by its senior management was a substantial element in the breach.
- That any such organisational breach caused or significantly contributed to the death.
Duty of Care
This is a legal obligation imposed on an individual or organisation which ensures the safety of others. An example would be of the relationship between an employer and its staff or customers to keep them safe or between a healthcare professional and a patient. The relevant duties of care are defined under Section 2(1) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
This threshold is extremely high and equates to a very serious failure. Section 1(4)(b) states that it is a breach of duty of care that falls far below what can reasonably be expected of the organisation in the circumstances.
There must a causal link between the gross breach of the duty of care and the fatality. There must not be any intervening act which has broken the chain of causation.
The prosecution must prove that there was some aspect of the management of the organisation at a senior level which was a major part which caused the death.
It would not be enough for a front-line member of staff to make an operational mistake on say operating a piece of machinery. If however the senior management had failed to put into place a system for making regular checks on the machinery or never had any safety training for operating the machinery, then the company could be guilty of Corporate Manslaughter.
Whilst Corporate Manslaughter cases are investigated by the police, they work alongside and liaise with the relevant regulatory body usually the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who will usually conduct their own parallel investigations into any other regulatory offences under the Health and Safety Act 1974.
Suspects will ordinarily be invited to attend a voluntary interview under caution – (PACE Interviews conducted under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984).
The investigators will carefully examine the nature of any relevant duty of care, whether that duty was breached and if so how.
They will scrutinise whether the breach caused or contributed to the death and look at the management and structure of the organisation and the way in which it was supervised and carried out relevant activities.
They will also request and carefully examine the company’s Health and Safety polices and work- based practices to access whether they are compliant, adequate and whether failings by the company contributed towards the fatality. They will also interview individuals associated with the business to gather evidence.
It is crucial that individuals seek specialist advice from a criminal defence lawyer in this particular field immediately and upon receiving notification of an intention by investigators to interview under caution and not attempt to deal with the interview without legal guidance.
ABV Solicitors lawyers are experienced, thoroughly trained and are regularly kept appraised of the law in this field and can fully represent, prepare and protect the organisation or individual and accompany them in the actual interview.
Our team of specialist lawyers are pro -active and can assist from the moment of an alert of a fatality or serious injury in the workplace. We can manage the entire process from the commencement of any investigation through to any criminal trial or Appeal irrespective of whether the offence is one of Corporate Manslaughter or Gross Negligence Manslaughter or any other offence investigated under the Health and Safety Act legislation.
Where possible we will make robust representations to avoid any criminal prosecution.
We regularly assist on advising on arrests, search warrants, request for information by the police or the Health and Safety Executive, on site investigations and dealing with media publicity.
We are regularly instructed on providing advice in respect of dealing with Enforcement Notices and represent those requested to be interviewed under caution (Pace Interviews) during the investigation process.
Companies must remember that it is not only the corporate entity that owes a legal duty to its employees and who can be prosecuted in the event of an accident. Health and Safety legislation also places legal duties on employees and directors, who can be personally liable when such duties are breached.
We also provide regulatory advice, an independent review and training to companies on their corporate policies to ensure they are compliant with their legal obligations in accordance with the current Health and Safety legislation, to avoid, if possible, any subsequent prosecution or enforcement action.
ABV Solicitors are available 24/7 to provide support and advice to corporations and individuals following a workplace fatality or serious injury.
Recent press articles on Corporate Manslaughter/ Health & Safety Offences
Hawkeswood Metal Recycling/Shredmet – Birmingham Crown Court - Nov 2022
Two directors (Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse) of a metal recycling firm have been convicted before the Birmingham Crown Court of health and safety breaches after five men died when a 45-tonne wall fell on them in 2016 whilst they were clearing a metal storage bay.
They were killed instantly in the collapse and had to be identified by their fingerprints. A sixth worker suffered a broken leg, another escaped injury after stepping outside the bay and a supervisor in a mini digger suffered cuts and bruises.
The case was prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
Jurors were told the directors, who ran a multimillion-pound scrap metal business, offered basic training and staff with little or no English were asked to sign lengthy safety induction forms.
A neighbouring company also photographed walls leaning on to its site from Shredmet and raised concerns with the company at least two years before the men were killed, the court was told.
Accidental death verdicts were returned at the men's inquest in 2018.
The two companies were accused of several counts of failing to conduct its undertaking to ensure the men were not exposed to risks to their safety arising from the storage of [scrap] material in, and its removal from, storage bays.
The directors were found guilty of consenting to the offences their companies were guilty of, or that they were attributable to their neglect.
Sentences will be delivered in due course.
FDS Waste Services Ltd – Winchester Crown Court - Nov 2022
FDS Waste Services Ltd, a waste collection company is currently facing a trial before Winchester Crown Court for Corporate Manslaughter. The company itself and the managing director Philip Pidgley are also charged with Health and Safety offences including failing to look after the safety and welfare of an employee.
The charges relate to a fatality incident in December 2018 when Yamal Mohamed died while working in the yard of FDS Services Ltd in Poole, Dorset. He was hit by a reversing lorry which had a missing glass from one of its wing mirrors.
Yamal Mohamed was employed as a "totter" to sort waste by hand. The Court heard that
there was no safe area for totters to stand while vehicles are moving and that the vehicles would be operated without the use of safety devices such as mirrors or cameras. The Corporate Manslaughter charge relates to the failure to segregate Yamal Mohamed and the vehicles.
The company has been accused of lax and complacent management and operating within an unsafe culture at the yard.
The jury also heard there had been a number of near misses in which employees had been struck and injured prior to Yamal Mohamed's death.
Other charges allege that Philip Pidgley, of St Ives, Dorset, and the Company failed to protect Yamal Mohamed, as well as another employee who became trapped in a conveyor belt in 2020.
The trial continues.
National Highways (Highways England) - Sept 2022
The Crown Prosecution Service have confirmed that the National Highways will not face a corporate manslaughter charge over the death of a woman on a smart motorway.
Nargis Begum, 62, from Sheffield, was killed after her car broke down on part of the M1 with no hard shoulder.
South Yorkshire Police carried out a "scoping exercise" for possible charges after concerns about the section of road were raised by a coroner.
The force confirmed the investigation into the offence had now ended. They stated, "This is because, in legal terms, the organisation did not owe road users a 'relevant duty of care' under the terms set out in the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007’’.
Banham Poultry – July 2022
An inquest into the deaths of two men who died at a Banham Poultry will now not take place until 2023 at the earliest as police investigate possible manslaughter charges. The inquest was initially opened after the incident in October 2018.
Pest control subcontractors Jonathan Collins and Neil Moon from Spalding, were found dead at the Attleborough chicken factory in October 2018.
The police and the HSE confirmed in November 2021 that they were investigating possible charges of gross negligence manslaughter and corporate manslaughter.
Stonegate Pub Company –Teeside Crown Court - June 2022
The trial of Stonegate Pub Company accused of health and safety breaches over the death of 20-year-old Milford student Olivia Burt will commence before the Teeside Crown Court in May 2023.
Stonegate, the largest pub company in the UK, denies four allegations in a prosecution brought by Durham County Council after the fatal incident outside a nightclub in the city on 7th February 2018.
Olivia died more than four years ago while she and her friends queued outside the Missoula venue, which was owned by Stonegate Pub Company.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) previously investigated charges of gross negligence and corporate manslaughter but found there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction in February 2020.
Durham County Council subsequently brought health and safety charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 against Stonegate Pub Company in February 2022.
The company pleaded not guilty earlier this year at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court.
Greenfeeds – Leicester Crown Court - June 2022
Three members of staff at the Greenfeeds Ltd food waste plant in Normanton, Leicestershire have been sentenced before the Leicester Crown Court. The company Greenfeeds Ltd was fined £2 million for two counts of corporate manslaughter after two of their workers drowned in a tanker of toxic pig feed.
The workers Nathan Walker and Gavin Rawson died a few days before Christmas 2016 after encountering difficulties while cleaning out a tanker at the plant.
Gillian Leivers, the accounts manager, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison and her husband, Ian Leivers, the managing director, to 20 months.
A third man, Stewart Brown, the transport manager, was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years.
The court heard Gavin Rawson came to the aid of Nathan Walker as he cleaned the tanker containing semi-liquid pig feed. Both men were pulled from the tanker after a saw was used to cut holes in its side.
Emergency services were called to the scene and they tried to resuscitate the men.
The six-week trial heard that there were multiple health and safety failings at the family-run site.
Both men died either due to a lack of oxygen or having drowned.
The trial heard that there were no health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of the tank.
Greenfeeds Ltd was found guilty of corporate manslaughter.
The company was run by the Leivers family including Ian Leivers and his wife Gillian Leivers, and produced bio-fuel and pig feed from recycled products, which were then delivered using road haulage tankers.
The cleaning of the tanker on 22 December 2016 had been carried out at the direction of Gillian Leivers and transport manager Stewart Brown.
Greenfeeds Ltd had no adequate health and safety procedures in place to govern the cleaning of their tankers.
The cleaning method where someone entered the tanker with a power washer while another acted as a spotter and held the hose pipe had no proper risk assessment in place.
There was no method statement for entering the tanker or for getting someone out of the tanker.
There was no provision of breathing apparatus or personal protection equipment for the employee entering the tanker.
Staff at the company had previously expressed concerns regarding the dangerousness of the cleaning method but these concerns had been ignored.
There was also no named health and safety officer at the company.
Ian Leivers, was found guilty, as a director of Greenfeeds Ltd, with a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Here, the courts believed the offence was committed with his consent or attributable to his neglect.
Gillian Leivers, was found guilty of two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. She was also found guilty of a breach of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 by virtue of section 37(1), with the courts also believing the offence was committed with her consent or attributable to her neglect.
Transport manager Stewart Brown was found guilty under section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974, namely that he failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others, who might be affected by his acts or omissions at work.
The 69-year-old was also charged with two counts of gross negligence manslaughter. However, he was found not guilty of these two counts.
Deco-Pak - Bradford Crown Court - January 2022
Deco-Pak Ltd a family run garden supplies firm from West Yorkshire has recently been convicted of Corporate Manslaughter following a fatal accident at its site at Hipperholme in April 2017.
Andrew Tibbott died from his injuries caused by a packing robotic arm whilst he attempted to clean a senor on the machine.
The court heard that the machine was installed in 2015 and that the company enabled key safety features to be bypassed and or disabled.
Rodney Slater, a director of the company was acquitted in relation to charges of Gross Negligence Manslaughter and breaching S.37 Health and Safety at Work Act 1975, which states that ‘Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly’.
Michael Hall, the managing director was acquitted of Gross Negligence Manslaughter as the jury were unable to reach a verdict.
Aster Healthcare Ltd – Royal Courts of Justice - October 2021
Care provider Aster Healthcare has been fined more than £1m, with two staff sentenced, in connection with the 2015 death of a female care home resident with dementia in Berkshire.
Frances Norris, 93, died three days after she was put in a scalding bath at Birdsgrove nursing home in Bracknell, which later closed in 2016.
Surrey-based Aster Healthcare, which owns four care homes, pleaded guilty to a charge of corporate manslaughter.
The Royal Courts of Justice ordered the company to pay a fine of £1.04m over three years.
Elizabeth West, 46, who was care home manager of Birdsgrove, was sentenced to nine months’ custody suspended for 18 months. She had admitted failing to discharge a duty to take reasonable care for the health and Safety of Francis Norris.
Noel Maida, 50, who was a senior carer at the nursing home, was sentenced to 16 weeks’ custody suspended for 18 months for the same offence.
Noel Maida was one of two carers who gave Norris a bath. A joint investigation by Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive found the temperature of the bath had not been checked properly and more hot water was added to the bath while Norris was sat in it.
The temperature of the water resulted in serious burns to both her lower legs and feet. After a lengthy delay, Norris was hospitalised and subsequently died of bronchopneumonia at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 8 February 2015, which was the direct result of the burns she had suffered.
The investigation into her death found that there was no proper bathing policy in place and the staff at Birdsgrove were not adequately trained to provide a sufficient level of care for the residents.
It was also established that there had been a longstanding problem with regulating the hot water supply and Aster Healthcare had not followed the available guidance for the safe provision of hot water.
The bath in question was not fitted with the correct type of thermostatic mixing valve; further, the one that was fitted had not been serviced, and was not working properly.
The investigation also found the issues at Birdsgrove were well known by senior management and established that they provided false documents to the police and partner agencies in an attempt to mislead the investigation.
The prosecution was able to present a compelling case having identified systemic failings on the part of the senior management of Aster Care Ltd in relation to their approach to health and safety and staff training.
Royal Air Force -September 2021
The investigation into the death of a Royal Air Force sergeant has been handed over to the Health and Safety Executive.
Rachel Fisk died on September 2 last year during a training event at RAF Weston-on-the-Green in Oxfordshire. Sgt Fisk was taking part in a parachuting exercise.
A joint investigation was launched with and led by Thames Valley Police. The police have concluded their investigation into offences of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence, the Health Safety Executive (HSE) will now lead the investigation.
The criminal inquiry will determine if any breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 have occurred.
Vue Entertainment Ltd – Birmingham Crown Court – July 2021
In April 2021 Vue pleaded guilty to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘the Act’) of failing to ensure that persons were not exposed to risk to their health and safety, contrary to section 3(1) of the Act, and failing to make suitable and sufficient risk assessment between the 1 January 2007 and 9 March 2018.
The fatal incident which occurred in March 2018 involved Ateeq Rafiq who suffered catastrophic brain injuries when his head and neck were trapped under an electronic footrest whilst he was trying to find his phone and keys at the end of a film.
A fuse in the control box for the powered chair was found to have blown and the chair was also reportedly missing a bar which would have allowed the footrest to be lifted by hand.
Mr Rafiq’s wife and staff struggled for 10 to 15 minutes to release him and after being taken to hospital he tragically died on 16 March 2018.
An inquest in 2019 recorded a verdict of accidental death. The jury foreman commented that there had been “missed opportunities to undertake comprehensive safety checks of the chairs” and that “if the seat had been fitted and maintained in the correct manner, Mr Rafiq would not have died”.
On 20 July 2021 Vue Entertainment Ltd was fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £130,000 following a fatal accident at the Star City cinema in Birmingham on 9 March 2018.
In delivering the sentence, Judge Heidi Kubik QC noted that it was conceded that “clearly a number of members of the public were exposed to the same risk of harm” and further commented that “the complete lack of a risk assessment was a significant cause of the actual harm that resulted”.
Govia Thameslink – Southwark Crown Court - July 2019
Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd (GTR) has been fined £1 million, after being convicted of one offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following the fatality of Simon Brown when a trackside gantry stuck his head whilst on a train between Brighton and London Victoria.
GTR had previous entered a guilty plea at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 8 May 2019.
The case was prosecuted by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
The ORR investigation found that for reasons unknown, Mr Brown’s head had passed through a droplight window of the door on the Class 442 train and struck a trackside gantry within 230mm of the window as the train passed it.
The window was in a carriage door in the corridor opposite the Guard’s compartment and was fully accessible to the public. A metal bar ran along the top of the window pane bearing the instruction ‘press and pull down to open’. This allowed the window to be lowered to a point about two-thirds of the way down the frame to enable passengers to reach the external door handle and open the door when the train was in a station.
The ORR’s investigation revealed that there had been a similar incident in 2002, which resulted in enforcement action being taken against the train operator South Central Limited.
The ORR told the court that the risks associated with droplight windows should have been identified by a suitable risk assessment, and control measures introduced accordingly. However, GTR failed to take the appropriate action.
BS Graves Ltd – Peterborough Magistrates Court - June 2019
BS Graves (Electrical) Limited of Rushmere Close, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, pleaded guilty at Peterborough Magistrates' Court to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,500.
This followed the tragic death of Heidi Chalkey whose hands got trapped and was pulled into a shutter door mechanism of an underground car park crushing her. She died at the scene of multiple injuries. The incident took place in Cambridge in August 2016.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the sensors at the top of the door, which should have stopped it, were incorrectly wired and no longer functioned as the door opened.
The HSE said BS Graves (Electrical) Limited had carried out work on the roller shutter door at Ruth Bagnall Court since 2012.
It said this included an inspection a month before the incident, but the company did not check the operation of safety sensors and failed to identify the fault.