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A company has become the first in the UK to be charged under the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act.
Company director Peter Eaton is charged with gross negligence manslaughter and could be jailed for life if convicted.
The maximum sentence for the firm is an unlimited fine. Both he and the company also face health and safety charges. The 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act was brought in to make it easier to bring companies to justice over the death of employees.
the first of many under the new legislation. ....the message to all organisations could not be clearer.
A Plymouth boatyard has admitted safety offences after the death of a young worker in a fireball explosion.
Ben Pinkham, aged 21, from Saltash, Cornwall, died in hospital six days after suffering 80 degree burns in the accident at the Princess Yachts yard.
The company has admitted two health and safety offences over his death.
The boss of that firm, Alan James Mark, 45, is charged with unlawful killing.
His firm, Nationwide Heating Services, of Pennycross, Plymouth, faces a summons for corporate manslaughter and breach of health and safety rules.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.
The Act, which came into force on 6 April 2008, clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.
Q, How does the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act differ from the current law?
A, The current law links a company's guilt to the gross negligence of an individual who is said to be the embodiment of the company.
It has proved very difficult to prosecute large organisations, and the only successful prosecutions have been against small companies where the director and company are essentially one and the same.
The new Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act seeks to address this difficulty by focusing on the way in which a company's activities are managed or organised, and it is not reliant on one individual being found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. The courts will now be able to consider the wider corporate picture, looking collectively at the actions, or more appropriately the failings, of the company's senior management.
Corporate manslaughter: the issues
The government has invited consultation and comment on a proposed bill by 17 June 2005.
It is not possible under the present law to add up the negligence of several individuals to show the company as grossly negligent. A specific individual has to be identified as a controlling mind for corporate manslaughter to be proven.
experts warned last night that the case's significance would be limited by the fact that prosecutors had targeted a relatively "small fish".