Amandeep Murria of Kangs Solicitors explains the nature of this offence with reference to a recent tragic case brought before the Old Bailey.
Tragic Circumstances Leading to Trial | Kangs Health and Safety Team
In August 2012 a female lawyer, whilst walking past a construction site in Mayfair, London, was killed when three window frames fell on her.
Following an investigation undertaken by the Homicide and Major Crime Command and the Health & Safety Executive, charges were brought against individuals and several companies.
Sentences Imposed | Kangs Criminal Trial Solicitors
In March 2017, one of the defendants, an individual, was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence, and offences contrary to Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work Act, for which a twelve month prison sentence was imposed.
One of the companies prosecuted was convicted of offences contrary to Section 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act but it could only be fined two hundred and fifty pounds because it was ‘dormant’ i.e not trading by that time.
It is understood that, because of the seriousness of the crime, the Judge wanted to impose a fine of £100,000, but he was unable to do so.
Definition Of Gross Negligence Manslaughter | Kangs Advisory Solicitors
This offence arises when a person dies as a result of the negligence of another and is a form of involuntary manslaughter where:
- the defendant is ostensibly acting lawfully but
- acts in such a way as to render the action criminal and
- can be committed by omission.
A four stage test as to whether or not the offence has been committed is set out in case law as follows:
- A duty of care to the deceased must have existed.
- There must have been a breach of that duty.
- The breach must have caused or contributed significantly to the death.
- The breach should be characterised as gross negligence , and therefore a crime.
Duty of Care
- There is no general duty of care owed by one person to another.
- A duty of care will arise from an act of a person where the requirements of foreseeability, proximity, fairness, justice and reasonableness establish such a duty.
- The duty exists even where the defendant and the deceased were engaged in unlawful activity
- The duty can arise from a contract of employment
Breach of the Duty | Causation | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors
The test of whether a duty of care has been breached is an objective one, based upon the defendant’s position at the time of the event, and what a ‘reasonable person’ would have done in those circumstances.
The act or the omission of the accused must be connected to the death and the prosecution must prove to the satisfaction of a jury that the breach made more than a minimum contribution to the death.
How Can We Help You? | Kangs Health & Safety Solicitors
Please feel free to contact our team through any of the lawyers named below who will be happy to provide you with some initial advice and an informal chat about any of the issues in this article which may be of interest to you.