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CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER PROSECUTION

Company and director plead guilty to CMCH and HSW Act charges

It has been reported by the Basingstoke Gazette that Mr Mervyn Owens and Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Ltd have appeared at Winchester Crown Court today after pleading guilty to failing to discharge a health and safety duty and corporate manslaughter duty respectively.

The prosecutions arise from the death of Malcolm Hinton on 6 March 2012 at Riddings Farm, near Basingstoke. Mr Hinton died from crush injuries after working on a repair underneath a road-sweeping truck at Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited. He had inadvertently removed a hydraulic hose, which caused the back of the truck to fall on him.

The CPS charged Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited with corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and Mr Owen was originally charge with gross negligence manslaughter.

The CPS also authorised charges against both Mobile Sweepers (Reading) Limited and Mr Owens with an offence under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and also with an offence under Regulation 5(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.

Sweeper supported on its own hydraulic system

The Gazette reports that the court was told that the employer of Mr Hinton “had so little regard for health and safety that it was only a matter of time before someone died”. Mr Hinton had no training in mechanics and ‘props’ were not available to stop the sweeper falling. The lighting on site was also said to be very poor.

The sweeper was raised from the ground using its own hydraulic system and Mr Hinton inadvertently cut through the hydraulic hose. He suffered massive head and chest injuries and died “almost instantly”. Prosecuting for the Crown, Esther Schutzer-Weissmann said there was a culture of:

“blatantly disregarding the health and safety of those who worked there and those who came into contact with it. It was only a matter of time before someone died. Over many years the company had been run on a shoestring.”

Police and HSE investigations found that six sweepers owned by the company had a “litany of faults”. Vehicles were not properly maintained, repairs were inadequate, there were no records of maintenance kept and no training had been offered.

Richard Matthews representing Mr Owens said that his client felt “deep and genuine” remorse over the death of his friend. He has since set up another business which was run in a “completely different way”. He said in his submission that £100,000 would be the maximum recoverable amount his client could afford to pay.

Andrew McGee representing Mobile Sweepers Ltd, said:

“It is right to say that the company accepted this is a very serious offence. It has not sought to belittle the seriousness of this offence.”

Owens and Mobile Sweepers Ltd will be sentenced at a later date.

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