Judge issues biggest corporate manslaughter fine

Lion Steel Limited, of Hyde, Greater Manchester, has been fined £480,000 and ordered to pay £84,000 prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a charge of corporate manslaughter.

The case relates to the death of Steven Berry, an employee of Lion Steel who died following an accident at the company’s premises in which he fell through a roof panel on to the floor below.

This is only the third conviction for the statutory offence of corporate manslaughter and although still below the £500,000 set out in the sentencing guidelines the penalty is higher than those imposed in the two previous cases. In the first prosecution Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Limited was fined £385,000 and Northern Irish pig-farming company, JMW Farms, was fined £187,500 earlier this year.

Lion Steel was originally charged with corporate manslaughter and offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA), and three directors were also charged, in their personal capacity, with gross negligence manslaughter and breach of HSWA through their connivance or neglect.

The charges against the directors were dropped and the company initially pleaded not guilty to corporate manslaughter, however the company changed its plea to guilty part way through the trial.

The court is allowing the defendant to pay the fine in four instalments, between September 2012 and 2015, highlighting how such large penalties may be justified against relatively small organisations without forcing them to cease trading.

Representatives of the police and HSE stated the case should be a clear message to employers to take action to prevent workers being put at risk.