Corporate manslaughter charges brought against recycling firm

by Direct 2 Lawyers on October 1, 2013

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The Criminal Prosecution Service have today announced that a Rotherham-based firm should be charged with corporate manslaughter following the death of an employee of the business.

The employee – Mr Michael Whinfrey – died in an incident which occurred on 11 January 2011. Mr Whinfrey was working at Sterecyle (Rotherham) Limited’s factory on an autoclave  – a device used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure saturated steam – when its door blew out under pressure. As well as Mr Whinfrey, another employee was also seriously injured in the accident at work.

Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (“CMCHA 2007″) an organisation which causes a death or has undertaken an action or an omission which amounts to a gross breach of the relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the accident that has taken place.

In order to prove the offence the following elements need to be shown:

  • That the Defendant is a qualifying organisation
  • That the organisation has caused a person’s death
  • That there was a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased
  • That there was a gross breach of that duty
  • That a substantial element of the breach was in the way those activities were managed or organised by senior management; and
  • The defendant does not fall under one of the exemptions for prosecution under the Act

Jane Wragg, a specialist prosecution at the CPS, said: “I have carefully reviewed the evidence gathered by South Yorkshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive during their investigation into the tragic death of Michael Whinfrey. I have concluded that Sterecycle (Rotherham) Limited should be charged with an offence of corporate manslaughter.”

There appears to have been no comment as yet from the firm or any criminal defence solicitors they may have retained.

Charges under section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 have apparently also been filed against the following managers at the firm: Kevin Goss, Steven Weaver and Paul Greenwell. A further charge of perverting the course of justice was filed against Kevin Goss.

The first hearing in the case will take place on 14 October 2013 at Rotherham Magistrates’ Court.

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