Three companies before the courts for corporate manslaughter offences
It is still relatively rare for a company to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter – prior to May 2017, just 20 companies had been successfully prosecuted since 2008.
However three companies facing corporate manslaughter offences were in court in May.
The first case involved two companies – Ozdil Investments Limited (OI) and Koseoglu Metalworks Limited (KML). They were both prosecuted after a worker fell through a roof of a warehouse owned by OI which was being repaired. What made this case worse was that prior to the accident, OI had been warned by the Health and Safety Executive and the local council about the need for safety measures such as netting to be in place whilst the repair work was being carried out. However, despite the warnings, the two directors of OI paid their friend, the director of KML to carry out repair works, without any safety measures in place. KML had no experience of roofing work and accepted approximately £100,000 less than a qualified roofing contractor would have charged. No site risk assessments was carried out, nor were KML’s staff trained.
OI was convicted of corporate manslaughter and an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. It was fined £500,000 for the corporate manslaughter offence and £160,000 for the health and safety offence and ordered to pay the prosecution costs of just over £53,000.
Two of OI’s directors were also found guilty of a health and safety offence and sentenced to 10 and 12 months imprisonment as well as being disqualified from being directors for 10 years.
KML pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter and was fined £300,000. It was also convicted of a health and safety offence and fined £100,000. Costs were just over £21,000. The sole director of KML pleaded guilty to a health and safety offence and was sentenced to 8 months in prison and was disqualified from being a director for 10 years.
In the second case, a construction company, Martinisation (London) Limited was convicted of corporate manslaughter and its director found guilty of health and safety offences after two workers fell from a balcony whilst attempting to pull a sofa onto a balcony using ropes with only the balcony railings for safety. Martinisation is due to be sentenced in July 2017.
Although of interest, these three recent cases do not necessarily point to an increase in the number of corporate manslaughter cases. These cases are difficult from a legal point of view and successful prosecutions are likely to remain infrequent.