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CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER

Firm cleared of corporate manslaughter after explosion death

This non-construction case illustrates the difficulties that Crown Prosecutors have in securing convictions for the offence of corporate manslaughter prior to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (CMCH Act 2007). The case arose from the death of a scrapyard worker who was helping to cut-up cylinders containing flammable gas which ignited causing an explosion in 2005. The company and a director were cleared of manslaughter charges. However, the company and one director were found guilty of health and safety offences and the director was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. Sentencing on these matters will take place in September.

Comment: Of the main industrial sectors construction has one of the highest rates of fatal injury and accounts for over 30% of fatal injuries to workers. There were 72 fatal injuries in 2007/08. It is therefore most likely that construction companies will be some of the first to be subject to prosecutions under CMCH Act 2007. The Act is designed to make convictions easier to obtain where serious management failures have resulted in death and a gross breach of a duty of care. The Government advice to companies and organisations is that they should review their current health and safety management arrangements and satisfy themselves that systems and processes are adequate.

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