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First company charged under new manslaughter law


Scene of the accidentA Gloucestershire-based geotechnical consultancy has become the first company in the UK to be charged under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007, which came into force in April last year, writes Adler deWind

Geoscientist Online 30 April 2009

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has authorized a charge of corporate manslaughter against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd in relation to the death of employee Alexander Wright on 5 September 2008.
Mr Wright, who was employed as a geologist, was taking soil samples from inside a pit which had been excavated as part of a site survey near Stroud when the sides of the hole collapsed on top of him.

Peter Eaton, a director of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter under the new Act, and with an offence contrary to Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company has also been charged with failing to discharge a duty contrary to Section 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Mr Eaton is a Fellow of the Society and a Chartered Geologist.

Kate Leonard, reviewing lawyer with the CPS Special Crime Division, said that an organization was guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities were managed or organized caused a death and amounted to a gross breach of duty of care to the person who died.

‘A substantial part of that breach must have been in the way activities were organized by senior management. I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for this offence’ she said.

Mr Eaton, who will appear before magistrates in Stroud on 17 June, could face life imprisonment if convicted. The maximum sentence for the firm is an unlimited fine.