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Case law: more companies fined for corporate manslaughter

Small and owner-managed companies are reminded of the need to make sure their procedures and practices are fully compliant with health and safety laws, following the conviction of two small companies for corporate manslaughter.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - December 2013

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

In the first case, an animal feed mixing company in County Down pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter after an employee was pulled into a mixing machine for animal feed in what the court described as a needless accident. The company pleaded guilty in exchange for dropping charges of gross negligence manslaughter against an individual director.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council indicates fines for corporate manslaughter will seldom be below £500,000 and can reach millions of pounds. In this case the court fined the company £100,000 plus costs of £10,000.

In the other case, a water sports firm was fined £135,000 in all, including costs following the death of an 11-year old girl. Again, charges against an individual director were dropped.

These are the fourth and fifth successful prosecutions for corporate manslaughter and each have involved small, owner-managed companies (reflected in the size of the fines) and all but one has pleaded guilty. Pleading guilty in return for not pursuing personal cases against directors is likely to continue. A further four cases are pending.

Companies should routinely carry out thorough health and safety risk assessments to identify and guard against the risk of potential accidents at work.

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Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.

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