Lawyers must fix the problems with gagging orders before it is too late
There have been fewer than 25 successful convictions for corporate manslaughter since the Corporate Homicide Act 2007 was introduced, but the past week has seen two convictions.
In the first, two companies came before Chelmsford Crown Court in connection with the death of a worker who fell through the roof of a warehouse after he stepped onto a discoloured skylight in 2015.
Odzil Investments Ltd owned the warehouse and was aware that the roof needed repairs. Despite warnings issued by the Health and Safety Executive and Harlow District Council about the hazards involved in the repair work and the requirement for adequate safety measures, the directors engaged their friend, Kadir Kose, and his company, Koseoglu Metalworks Ltd, to carry out the work without those required safety measures being put in place. It transpired that Koseoglu Metalworks Ltd did not have had any experience of roofing work and its workers were not trained in carrying out the work involved.
Koseoglu Metalworks Ltd admitted corporate manslaughter and an offence under s.3 HSWA and was fined £400,000 with costs of £21,236. Its director, Kadir Kose, pleaded guilty to s.3(1) Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment.
Odzil Investments Ltd and two of its directors, Firat and Ozgur Ozdil, contested the charges, but all were found guilty following a four week trial. The company was found guilty of corporate manslaughter and an offence under s.3 HSWA. It was fined £660,000 with prosecution costs of £53,115.34. Both directors were found guilty of breaches under s.3(1) HSWA 1974 and each sentenced to a term in prison: Firat Ozdil 12 months; and Ozgur Ozdil 10 months.
The second case involved Martinisation (London) Ltd, which was convicted of the corporate manslaughter of two workers, who died in November 2014 after falling from a first floor balcony as they tried to lift a sofa from the pavement using ropes. The company’s director, Martin Gutaj, was convicted under ss.33(1) and 71(1) HSWA. Both defendants were found guilty following a trial and are due to be sentenced in July.
These are the first convictions since Bilston Skips Limited in August of last year. While this may give the impression that there has been a big increase in the number of successful corporate manslaughter prosecutions, figures released in previous years suggest these cases represent a small number of such cases opened by the CPS. Despite the number of investigations carried out, very few lead to charges being brought and fewer still result in successful convictions.
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