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CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER CASE SENTENCED

Fine in banana boat ride death case has few lessons for construction

Princes Sporting Club Limited has pleaded guilty (22 Nov) to Section 1(1) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 following the death of an 11-year-old girl resulting from a water sports activity organised on 11 September 2010 in Bedfont, Middlesex.

Company director Frederick Glen Walker was cleared of any offences after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against him.

Mari-Simon Cronje died during a birthday celebration when she fell from the banana boat into a lake. The boat driver had no UK-recognised qualification despite having five years’ experience as a ski-boat driver.

The court heard factors which contributed to the  death included: lack of an observer on the boat at the time of the incident; speed of the boat;  s ”unnecessary” turning at tight angles; and the colour of the equipment the children were wearing – making it difficult to spot them if they fell in the water.

Significant failings in the way water sports were organised

The company was ordered to pay a fine of £134,579.69.

Elizabeth Joslin of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime Division said:

“This is a tragic case in which 11-year-old Mari-Simon Cronje died during a birthday party at Princes Sporting Club Ltd. Today’s guilty plea to corporate manslaughter is an acknowledgement that there were significant failings in the way water sports were organised at this club.

This was a gross breach of the duty of care owed to Mari-Simon which could have been avoided by having a competent adult in the towing boat acting as an observer and we are pleased this company has been held criminally accountable for this significant failing.

We sincerely hope that the message of this case is clearly understood by all parts of the leisure industry offering similar rides. Our thoughts are with Mari-Simon’s parents and brother at this time.”

Comment

The fine is such cases is determined in accordance with The Sentencing Guidelines Council which anticipate a broad range of fines reflecting the range of seriousness involved and circumstances of the defendants.

Fines do not attempt to value a human life in money but are designed to punish the defendant and are therefore tailored not only to what it has done but also to its individual circumstances.

However, the Guidelines go on to say: Corporate Manslaughter  – an “appropriate fine will seldom be less than £500,000 and may be measured in millions of pounds.” Health and Safety – “the appropriate fine will seldom be less than £100,000 and may be measured in hundreds of thousands of pounds or more.

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