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CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER ACT 2007 TRIAL UPDATE

Evidence from unwell director heard through DVD presented to court

The trial but Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Ltd is currently in progress at Winchester Crown Court. The company denies the corporate manslaughter of geologist Mr Wright, 27, who died in a 4m deep excavation on a development site in Brimscombe Lane, near Stroud, Gloucs, in September 2008. Mr Wright ied from asphyxia as he was buried by the soil.

Peter Eaton, who was the director of Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Ltd Mr Eaton, 61, is seriously ill and unable to give evidence. However his evidence is being admitted in the form of a video.

This prosecution of the company is the first case to be heard under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Mr Eaton is not on trial as proceedings against him had discontinured because of his poor health.

Director ‘astonished’ at entry into excavation 

In his statement by Mr Eaton said he was “astonished” his employee had gone down into the excavation and that no-one should ever enter a pit without someone being present above ground. 

Mr Wright was being groomed by him for a senior position in the company and he was fond of him. He was “absolutely confident” the he knew what he was doing, adding

“There was absolutely no need for Alex to go into trial pit five. I do not know why he did what he did. There is no way he would have thought I would have expected him to re-enter the pit. I was astonished that Alex was in any of the trial pits.”

Rule did not apply to geologists

Mr Eaton said he had been using the same procedures to dig trial pits since 1971 and that he had overall responsibility for the health and safety of his staff. He said his health and safety booklet had been written in 1992 and he had been “threatening” to update it but had never found the time.

The booklet said that staff should not enter unsupported pits deeper than 1.2 metres, but Mr Eaton said this did not apply to geologists like Mr Wright or himself, who had both built up a practical knowledge of soil and the dangers. He said he had inspected 7,000 pits during his career and Mr Wright 600 to 700. He went on to say

“I would not consider letting someone loose until I was happy they could make that judgment and safely. I thought Alex was absolutely confident to make that decision. could not think of a single occasion when Alex was in danger of making a wrong decision.”

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