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First corporate manslaughter case settled

First corporate manslaughter case settled

A Gloucestershire company, the first to be convicted under new corporate manslaughter laws, has been fined £385,000 after a 27-year-old man died when a pit collapsed on him.

Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Ltd became the first firm to be found guilty under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, at Winchester Crown Court on Tuesday, following the death of Alexander Wright from Cheltenham.

Geologist and Imperial College graduate Mr Wright was working alone in a 2.6ft (3.8 metres) deep trial pit, which was unsupported, when it collapsed in Brimscombe Lane, near Stroud, in September 2008.

The company, which was described in court as in a "parlous financial state" can pay the fine back over 10 years at £38,500 per year, judge Mr Justice Field said.

He said the fine represented the gravity of the offence and deterrent effect it would have on companies to follow health and safety guidelines, as well as adding that a bigger fine would lead to the firm to be liquidated and four employees losing their jobs.

He said: "It may well be that the fine in the terms of its payment will put this company into liquidation. If that is the case it's unfortunate but unavoidable. But it's a consequence of the serious breach."

No-one was in the dock for the three-week trial but the business denied corporate manslaughter.

The court heard that 61-year-old company director Peter Eaton is seriously ill with cancer and has just months to live.

He was unable to stand trial on a manslaughter charge but the jury was told to assess his conduct in reaching a verdict.

The judge said that Peter Eaton was in substance the company and his approach to trial pitting was "extremely irresponsible and dangerous".

The penalty under the new legislation is an unlimited fine.

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