Corporate manslaughter: the implications of CAV Aerospace decision

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We discuss the implications following the most important case (and largest fine) to date for a corporate manslaughter conviction.

With the new sentencing guidelines for corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety offences coming into force on 1 February 2016 now is a good time to highlight the Old Bailey’s decision in CAV Aerospace (July 2015) which dealt with the death of a worker crushed by a dangerously high stack of Airbus parts.

CAV Aerospace was prosecuted and convicted for an offence of corporate manslaughter as well as for a health and safety offence. The Judge imposed a fine of £600,000 for the former, £400,000 for the latter (“concurrent”) plus costs of £125,000.

The case is significant as CAV Aerospace was the parent company of CAV Cambridge (where the incident took place). Unusually, the authorities chose to pursue the parent company rather than the subsidiary company and based on the specific facts of the case the Court was prepared to convict it. It found that there had been a series of management failures notwithstanding that no individual senior managers were specifically identified as the perpetrators.

Further, the fine imposed on CAV was in line with the sentencing guidelines currently in force (“The appropriate fine will seldom be less than £500,000…”). Fines imposed on smaller organisations for previous corporate manslaughter convictions have mostly been for significantly less and therefore not in line with the guidelines.

It now appears much more likely that, where fatalities occur, prosecutors will be prepared to proceed against a more substantial parent company, where possible, so the resulting fines could well be significantly higher. However, in CAV, it is perhaps not surprising that the fine was so significant as it is said that the death was an accident waiting to happen, that previous warnings were disregarded and that senior management had not taken responsibility for health and safety matters.

The message is clear: don’t ignore warnings; be proactive about risks and always promote communication regarding health and safety issues within your organisation.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised please get in touch with Ian or Dominique.

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