Strategy & Operations » Legal » Cotswold Geotechnical fined £385,000 over pit death

Cotswold Geotechnical has been fined £385,000 after becoming the first company to be convicted under new corporate manslaughter legislation for the death of geologist Alexander Wright.

The engineering company was found guilty by a jury at Winchester Crown Court on 15 February for failing to ensure the safety of Wright, who died in September 2008 when a deep trench on a development plot in Stroud collapsed on him.

The fine imposed by the judge, Justice Field, is to be paid over a 10-year period.

John Gollaglee, head of health and safety at law firm Pannone, says the successful prosecution of a small business, whose management became involved in onsite operations, arguably would not have been a challenge under the old law.

This case, albeit tragic, did not require detailed consideration of the key issues on which practitioners are awaiting clarification, such as insight into how ‘senior management’ is to be interpreted by the courts. “As a result, this case changes little,” Gollaglee said.

“We still await a prosecution against a medium-to-large organisation in which the key issues posed by the Act will have to be addressed. As these will be the cases that will be harder to succeed in court conviction, we may have even more of a wait before we receive practical guidance from the courts,” he added.