Corporate manslaughter case to be heard in Crown Court next week

The company director facing jail under the Corporate Manslaughter Act will have his case heard in Crown Court next week.

Peter Eaton, director of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, has been accused of corporate manslaughter over the death of geologist Alexander Wright in a mudslide in September 2008. The company faces an unlimited fine if found guilty under the 2007 legislation.

Wright, 27, who was employed as a junior geologist at the firm, was taking soil samples from inside a pit which had been excavated as part of a site survey when the sides collapsed, crushing him.

Eaton, who also faces health and safety charges, could be jailed for life under the law, which was brought in to make it easier to bring companies to justice over the death of employees.

Ian Mayers, who specialises in corporate manslaughter and is a partner at law firm Mills & Reeve LLP, previously told Personnel Today: “The maximum sentence for gross negligence manslaughter is life, but even if he escapes conviction for this most serious offence, he could still face imprisonment for the offence under section 37 of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act, which could mean a maximum of two years under a recent amendment which just came into force in January 2009.

“The director may have a legal defence to the manslaughter charge brought against him personally, but this may all depend upon his level of control over the business and, in particular, his control over the particular activity which led to the death.”

Stroud magistrates today referred the case to Bristol Crown Court for 23 June.

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