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Third corporate manslaughter case in court


On 3 July 2012 , the Crown Prosecution Service secured a successful conviction against Lion Steel Equipment Ltd, following the death of 45-year-old Steven Berry, who fell through a fragile roof at the Head Office site of Lion Steel. Mr Berry subsequently died in hospital on 29 May 2008.

The firm had originally faced both corporate manslaughter and charges for offences under sections 2 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work etc... Act 1974 for failing to ensure the safety at work of its employees. Three of the firm’s directors – Kevin Palliser, 59, Richard Vaughan Williams, 43, and Graham Coupe, 59 – had also been charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.

Following a trial and various legal arguments put forward by both the company's and individuals' legal teams, the company pleaded guilty corporate manslaughter. All other charges were either dropped or no evidence was offered by the CPS.

Commenting on the case, Rob Castledine, Director of Three Spires Safety said:

 "It will be interesting to see the level of fine that is imposed on Lion Steel, as to date we have only had two other court cases. In the first one, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings were handed out a £385,000 penalty and in the other case in Northern Ireland, JMW Farms, who operated a pig farm, were fined £187,500. Current Sentencing Council Guidelines have stated that fines should start at £500,000, so we'll wait to see whether the court sticks to this guideline or whether, as in the other two cases, it's a different figure."

"Although another sucessful conviction under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act which came into force in April 2008, the Lion Steel case still does not throw any more light on how the courts or indeed the CPS will interpret the meaning of 'senior level' when it comes to a gross beach of a  duty of care, which is the main test in a corporate manslaughter case. "

In July 2012 the company was fined £480,000 and also had to pay £84,000 costs.

Postscript (31 July 2012) 

 "The fine of £480,000 brings this third case in line with the Sentencing Council Guidelines, that fines will not be less than £500,000. The Judge in the Lion Steel case indicated that the fine would normally have been £600,000 but due to the guilty pleas recieved, a standard 20% reduction on the fine is automatically given. Lion Steel have 3 years to pay the fine and it remains unclear what financial impact this will have on their business." 

Further cases are, no doubt, pending. 

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