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First Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide case goes to court

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Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings has become the first company to be charged under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

The firm has been charged following the death of junior geologist Alexander Wright who was collecting soil samples in a pit near Stroud and was crushed when the pit collapsed. A director at the company, Peter Eaton, was charged with gross-negligence, manslaughter, and health and safety offences.

 

Steffan Grouch, a partner at health and safety lawyer DWF, believes the case will give organisations a better indication of how the law, and the legal jargon surrounding it, will work in practice. He said: "If the company pleads not guilty, we might see an exploration of what the terms ‘senior manager' and falling far below' in the duty of care actually mean.

 

"On the other hand if it pleads guilty we will still get to learn something, such as how big the fines are likely to be. The sentencing guidelines for the Act have not yet been finalised and the judge will be aware this is the first prosecution and may apply a larger fine."

 

But Grouch admitted because the organisation was a small company, the new law might not make much difference, because under the previous system the individual director would have been the one charged with gross-negligence.

 

He added: "It will be more informative when we see prosecutions of larger companies as here the new Act is likely to make all the difference between acquittal or a conviction."