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May 8, 2012

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Record fine in first NI corporate manslaughter case

A pig farm has received the largest ever health and safety fine in Northern Ireland following the country’s first corporate manslaughter conviction.

JMW Farms Ltd was yesterday (8 May) fined £187,500 at Belfast’s Langanside Crown Court for safety failings, which led to the death of its employee Robert Wilson.

On 15 November 2010, Mr Wilson, 45, was working at the firm’s meal-mixing farm in Co Armagh, when he was struck by a metal bin, which fell from the raised forks of a forklift. The vehicle was being driven by one of the company’s directors, Mark Wright (pictured on the right), and the bin had not been properly attached to, or integrated with the forklift. When the vehicle reversed the bin became unstable and fell on Mr Wilson, who suffered fatal head injuries.

A joint investigation was conducted by the HSENI and the PSNI, which found that the forklift was an on-loan replacement vehicle while the usual truck was being serviced. The investigation also revealed that it was not possible to insert the lifting forks into the sleeves of the bin, as the forks were too large and incorrectly spaced.

HSENI acting deputy chief executive Louis Burns said: “This case highlights the importance of managing health and safety in the workplace and demonstrates the terrible consequences of not doing so.

“This new corporate manslaughter legislation clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.”

JMW Farms pleaded guilty to breaching the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and, in addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay £13,000 in costs. The company must pay both the fine and costs within six months.

Delivering his sentence, Belfast Recorder Judge Tom Burgess said: “Yet again, the court is faced with an incident where common sense would have shown that a simple, reasonable and effective solution would have been available to prevent this tragedy.€

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12 years ago

CMA 2010 – Seriousness of the offence should ordinarily be assessed first by asking:

1. How foreseeable was serious injury?
2. How far short of the applicable standard did the defendant fall?
3. How common is this kind of breach in this organisation?
4. How widespread was the non-compliance?
5. How far up the organisation does the breach go?

This is the guidance given to HSE investigating officers & the CPS / COPFS.

The defendant was Managing this task as well as participating in it.

12 years ago

Its amazing how often a fork lift s involved in fatalities like this, despite the ACOP, Work Equipment Regs etc. But why was this company prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act which was brought in to deal with huge corportations where a “controlling mind”could not be identified?
A Director of the company was operating the fork lift so he could easily have been prosecuted personally for manslaughter. Whats the bet that the Company goes into administration and the fine is never paid!

12 years ago

Too many times we see companies with little or nothing in place and getting away with it,There should be more enforcement of the regulations to ensure these things do not happen.
We advise our customers all over Northern Ireland to get them to a high level of safety but other dont bother until its to late.
This type of accident was preventable.

12 years ago

Like Edward, I’m trying to understand why this has been prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act. In theory, any death in work could be prosecuted in that way, but that’s not what all the compaigning to get the legislation was about. The idea was, surely, to be able to follow the chain of responsibility through a large organisation to get to where the bad work ethics derived and where the “buck” should stop.

12 years ago

As a test case for Northern Ireland, it is important to prosecute a no-contest “bang to rights” case to establish the basis of that law prior to having judges adjudicate (in later cases) on the finer points within the legislation. This is similar to the Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings prosecution last year. The Lion Steel Prosecution of the company AND 3 directors for individual gross negligence (due June) is likely to be the “ground shaking” one, showing the differences.