Aug 23, 2012

Corporate Manslaughter News

August 2012 Update

UK company convicted and have been fined £480,000 in relation to the death of a worker

Lion Steel Equipment Ltd has recently been sentenced after being convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. They are the third company in the UK to be convicted and have been fined £480,000 in relation to the death of a worker. This is the largest fine issued under the Act since it has been in force.

The company had pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter following the death of an employee on 29 May 2008.

Mr Berry, a member of maintenance staff, fell through a roof light at the company’s factory near Manchester after he had gone to check the source of a leak he had identified the previous day. As he was heading back, it is thought he had taken a short cut over the roof’s apex to the access door he had used, and then fell through a roof light, 13 metres to the floor below, sustaining fatal injuries.

The CPS had brought charges under of the HSWA 1974 against the company, as well as charges of gross-negligence manslaughter. Three company directors were also charged but were not convicted by the court.


The prosecution argued that Lion Steel had not put in place any suitable arrangements for working on the roof, nor had it trained Mr Berry in roof work, nor provided him with any protective equipment for such work.


Lion Steel had operated successfully from the premises for around 50 years and there had never been an accident involving work on the roof, nor had the company ever been prosecuted for health and safety matters.

During sentencing the company was ordered to pay the £480,000 fine over four years and was also ordered to pay £84,000 in prosecution costs.

In setting the fine, the judge took the company’s guilty plea into account, reducing the amount by 20 per cent – which suggests that the fine could have been in excess of £600,000. He said he had reflected upon the potential effect of a large fine on the company and that the company employed 142 people and did not wish for jobs to be lost as a consequence of the death of their colleague.


This case is the first real example of the size of fine courts are likely to impose on companies with a reasonable turnover and profits.


Last month the Crown Prosecution Service brought a charge of gross-negligence manslaughter in relation to the death of a worker against a contractor, Austin and McLean Ltd, who had been contracted by Esso Petroleum Company Ltd, to undertake maintenance on a jib at their oil refinery in Fawley, Southampton.

On 30 August 2008, Mr Romero had been working on a fuel tanker, which had docked at the refinery, when the jib gave way due to the failure of a corroded connector bolt, resulting in the fuel pipe collapsing on him.

Austin and McLean are being charged with gross-negligence manslaughter and breaches of the HSWA 1974, relating to a gross breach of their duty of care towards Mr Romero.

Esso has also been charged with breaches of HSWA 1974, relating to a failure to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of employees and visitors.

Both companies will appear at Southampton Magistrates’ Court in September 2012.

When looking at the convictions to date and the cases pending, the trend suggests that when deaths are attributable to failings in health and safety arrangements by businesses, even larger fines are going to be seen. Evidence also seems to show that even the relatively ‘smaller’ employers are at risk of substantial fines if convicted under this Act. Larger and more profitable organisations, if successfully convicted, could expect fines well above the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s £500,000 starting point.

It will be interesting to see how strictly sentencing guidelines will be followed in the future, as to date significant discretion has been used when setting fines and sentences.

Paul Venter

Health & Safety Consultant


To contact Paul phone our offices on 020 8506 0582