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Prison looms for senior staff in breach of health and safety rules under new law

12 June 2009

There are likely to be more convictions for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act following the recently introduced Health and Safety (Offences) Act than under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, according to a leading lawyer.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Act has raised the maximum penalty for breaches of health and safety for most offences dealt with by the Magistrates’ Courts from £5,000 to £20,000 for individuals and firms with the possibility of a maximum two-year jail term for individuals and unlimited fines in the Crown Court.

Crucially, unlike for charges to occur under corporate manslaughter legislation, there does not have to be a death for prosecutions to take place under the Health and Safety (Offences) Act.

As a result, Kevin Basnett, a partner in west country-based Goughs Solicitors and an adviser to Fleet Support Group, a supporter of the ‘Driving for Better Business’ campaign, said: “We are more likely to see more convictions based on the Health and Safety (Offences) Act than under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act simply because breaches of the legislation are likely to be more prevalent and easier to prosecute.

Mr Basnett’s comments came in the wake of the Crown Prosecution Service revealing that it had sanctioned the first use of the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act. The law is being used to prosecute Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd in relation to the death of Alexander Wright on September 5, 2008.