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June 17, 2009

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First corporate manslaughter prosecution under new law gets underway

Boss Peter Eaton and his company, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd, appeared before Stroud magistrates yesterday (17 June) to answer charges of unlawful killing of an employee by gross negligence — the first prosecution to be brought under 2007’s Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act. (Click here for our earlier report.)

The case was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the death of geologist Alexander Wright in September last year. Mr Wright, 27, was gathering soil samples in a trench in Stroud when it collapsed in on him.

Peter Eaton, the sole director of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, and the company also face charges under sections 37 and 33 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, respectively.

In court yesterday, the 60-year-old spoke only to give his name, address and occupation. No pleas were entered and the case was committed to Bristol Crown Court for a preliminary hearing on 23 June. No pleas will be entered on this date either — the judge will set out the timetable for the prosecution and defence to serve their respective cases, and set a date for a plea and case management hearing (PCMH hearing).

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