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Corporate Manslaughter Conviction a Wake-Up for Businesses

24 February 2011

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings has just been convicted of the death of 27-year-old geologist Alex Wright, who died in September 2008 when a trench in which he was working collapsed. As a result his employer has been fined £385,000 – less than suggested by the Sentencing Guidelines Council but still a huge sum for a small company; The trial Judge Mr Justice Field considered that a greater fine would be likely to result in the liquidation of the Company.

David Faithful, Driving for Better Business legal adviser, comments, “Despite years of warnings, many companies are still woefully under-protected when it comes to managing driver risk. As this case demonstrates, failure to do everything possible to keep employees safe can lead to appalling publicity and a massive fine.

The prosecution of the company director Peter Easton was not pressed at trial on medical grounds, so the question of whether a director will face a prison sentence for health and safety breaches is still untested.

There is no doubt that this case is a landmark decision, it acts as a salutary warning to small businesses with work related driving activities, do something now in relation to work related driving risk, taking the first steps towards managing risk will considerably improve the organisations prospects of avoiding a prosecution.

Every organisation with employees who drive for work needs to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment and do whatever they can to reduce risk. Otherwise the next conviction we read about may well be for the unlawful death of a business driver.”

A further report is available in Fleet News on Line.          More on Business Driver News

David Faithful, Consultant Solicitor with Lyons Davidson is Legal advisor to RoadSafe and Driving for Better Business

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