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First Corporate Manslaughter Charge

Junior Geologist Killed in Pit Collapse Incident


The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has authorised its first charge of corporate manslaughter against a geological survey company in relation to the death of a junior geologist, under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

 

On 5th September 2008, Mr Alexander Wright, who was employed by Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd as a junior geologist, was taking soil samples from inside a pit which had been excavated as part of a site survey, when the sides of the pit collapsed, crushing him.

 

Peter Eaton, a director of the company, has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter and with an offence contrary to the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974.

 

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd has also been charged with failing to discharge a duty contrary to the 1974 Act.

 

Mr Eaton will appear at Stroud Magistrates' Court on 17th June 2009. He faces charges both as an individual and on behalf of the company, as follows:

  • The conviction for gross negligence manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
  • Convictions under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 result in a fine.
  • A conviction for corporate manslaughter attracts an unlimited fine.

Kate Leonard, a CPS reviewing lawyer in its Special Crime Division, said, “Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a death and amounts to a gross breach of a duty of care to the person who died. A substantial part of the breach must have been in the way activities were organised by senior management. I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for this offence.”

 

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into effect on 6th April 2008.