Armagh Company Fined 187,500 in Corporate Manslaughter case

Peninsula Team

June 01 2012

On the 8th of May 2012 in Belfast Crown Court a company based in Co Armagh became the first business in Northern Ireland to be convicted of Corporate Manslaughter. The case arose following the fatal injuries suffered by a 45 year old worker in November 2012 who sustained serious head injuries when a metal bin fell from a forklift. The forklift was not the usual machine as it was being serviced and the bin had no means of attachment to the forks. A risk assessment had not been effectively carried out to consider the risks involved in the operation. 

A heavy price was paid by all involved. Firstly there is the issue of the man’s family and his children who have suffered a loss that no one should have to endure. No award, compensation or fine can ever undo the damage that has been inflicted. The business too has suffered, aside from the trauma of the incident, the pressure and stress that it put on those involved, there is also a financial aspect – in this case a fine of £187,500. There will, in addition to this, most likely be an award paid under their employers liability insurance and this will be reflected in future premiums, the subsequent interruption to the operations of the business is another factor which it is hard to quantify in monetary terms.

In April 2008 the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act introduced the new offence of ‘corporate manslaughter’ across the UK and Northern Ireland (in Scotland the offence will be known as ‘corporate homicide’). Following this Landmark Act, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter where serious management failures can be shown to have contributed to a gross breach of duty that led to the fatal incident.

Through this new approach Enforcing Authorities will have a more effective means of prosecuting the most serious corporate failures regarding failing to manage health and safety than hitherto. In respect of a fatal incident a jury will have to consider how health and safety was managed throughout the organisation and determine whether a substantial part of that failure was at senior level. To secure a conviction the prosecution will have to prove that the organisation’s conduct fell below what could have been reasonably expected. An organisation guilty of corporate manslaughter will be liable to an unlimited fine and, potentially, a ‘publicity order’ or a ‘remedial order’.

In Northern Ireland the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions is needed before a case of corporate manslaughter can be taken to court.

If you need advice or are unsure of your responsibilities, call us at Peninsula Business Services on 0800 917 0771 for some free advice.

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