Health and Safety Convictions

The numbers of senior managers being prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter is not uncommon and you see later in this article a recent example of a prosecution leading to a custodial sentence.

Firstly it is however important to explain the subtle difference between ‘The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007’ which  introduced a new offence of corporate manslaughter and  ‘ Gross negligence manslaughter’.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007′  only applies to the corporation NOT the individual even though the new offence looks strongly at the behaviour of individuals, and in particular that of senior managers. When this Act came into force, the manslaughter law, which applies to individuals, was not amended and is still in full force. In terms of health and safety incidents, the law of gross negligence manslaughter is applied to individuals and cases are common.

The maximum penalty for those convicted of gross negligence manslaughter is life imprisonment. Yes thats right life imprisonment.

So allcontent directors must realise their health and safety obligations and responsibilities and have a corporate health and safety management system in place.  The factors which are taken into account when deciding the length of any prison term include the following:

  • the level of fatalities
  • the case involved a prolonged and dangerous course of conduct
  • if the director was aware of  a significant risk of death or really serious injury
  • if previous warnings had been ignored
  • the defendant was pursuing a course of conduct for financial gain.

The reality is that Gross negligence manslaughter is a form of involuntary manslaughter where a person causes another person’s death, but without any intent to kill or harm that person.

In the case of gross negligence manslaughter the death is a result of a grossly negligent act (or omission) on the part of the defendant. The test under Case law has determined the stages to show gross negligence manslaughter is as follows:

  • The existence of a duty of care to the deceased. eg employ a contractor to carry out work on your site then you have a duty of care for that contractor
  • A breach of that duty of care which:
    • causes (or significantly contributes to) the death of the victim
    • is characterised as gross negligence.

These 2 simple stages are basic fundamentals for any director and their health and safety managers who have even received basic training on health and safety matters.

A recent example of a conviction is that two men have been jailed for manslaughter by gross negligence following the death of a contractor working at a farm in Cornwall four years ago.

33-year-old Jason Morgan from Bristol was killed at Great Brynn Barton Farm near Roche, Cornwall in June 2011.

Truro Crown Court sentenced a farmer and his employee to four years in jail, over the death of Jason Morgan who was electrocuted when his ladder touched an overhead power cable.

Roger Matthews, 48, and his employee Norman Treseder, 55, were found to be GROSSLY NEGLIGENT when they appeared at Truro Crown Court in August.

They were jailed for four years each and Matthews told to pay £10,000 costs.

To read more about this case please follow the link to the BBC news article

In the meantime if you are a director of a company and are concerned then first4safety can help you conduct a full review of your heath and safety systems


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