LION Steel Limited has been fined £480,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £84,000 after pleading guilty to a charge of corporate manslaughter.
The case relates to the death of Steven Berry, an employee of Lion Steel who died following an accident at work in which he fell through a roof panel on to the floor below at the company’s premises in Hyde, Cheshire.
This is only the third conviction for the statutory offence of corporate manslaughter and the penalty imposed in this case is a lot higher than any imposed on earlier offenders.
Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Limited was fined £385,000 in February 2011 and JMW Farms was fined £187,500 earlier this year.
Lion Steel was originally charged with corporate manslaughter and offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA).
Three directors of the company were also charged, in their personal capacity, with gross negligence manslaughter and breach of HSWA through their connivance or neglect.
However, the judge in the case decided that certain charges against the individuals shouldn’t be put to the jury and the prosecution later offered no evidence for the remaining charges against the individuals or company in relation to breach of HSWA.
The company initially pleaded not guilty to corporate manslaughter but changed its plea to guilty part way through the trial.
Although high, the sentence imposed in this case is still lower than the £500,000 figure set out in sentencing guidelines as the level of fine that should be considered in cases of this nature. The court is allowing the defendant to pay the fine in four instalments, between September 2012 and 2015, highlighting how such large penalties may be justified against relatively small organisations without forcing them to cease trading.
Representatives of the police and HSE stated the case should be a clear message to employers to take action to prevent workers being put at risk.
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:: Anna Hart is an associate in the environment & safety team at Dickinson Dees