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Implications of the first corporate manslaughter case in care

Posted on: 04/11/16

Following the death of a Service User in 2012, Sherwood Rise Ltd pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced in February. This case also brought into focus the new Sentencing Guidelines.

Although Corporate Manslaughter cannot apply to individuals, one Director was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter and given a custodial sentence of 38 months and another Director was found guilty of health and safety offences under Sections 3 and 37 of the HSW act and sentenced to 12 months suspended for 2 years. The Court used its powers to ban them from holding Directorships for 8 year and 5 years.

Two main points come out of this particular case:

  • The exposure of residential care to the Corporate Manslaughter legislation because of the extreme vulnerability of many of the Service Users, the very high standards of care that are required and the obvious outcome if standards are allowed to slip.
  • The sentencing date was 4 days after the new Sentencing Guidelines for Health & Safety offences came into force. The guidelines cover Health & Safety, Food Safety and Corporate Manslaughter. There are three variables which the Courts have to consider:
    • Culpability
    • Level of harm
    • Size of organisation in terms of turnover

Applying these variables to an employer results in a fine starting point which can vary from £10,000 to £7.5 million. This figure can be moved up or down between maxima and minima depending upon the application by the Court of mitigating factors and aggravating factors coming from the defence and prosecution sides. This is all quite complicated but the message is that the days of low fines have gone.

Sherwood Rise Ltd was a micro organisation (turnover less than £2 million). For Corporate Manslaughter convictions, the starting point was £300,000 with the range being £180,000 to £540,000. They were fined £300,000.

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