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August 9, 2011

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Wall-collapse director to face manslaughter charge

A director of a construction firm has been accused of causing, through gross negligence, the death of a child who was killed when a wall he designed collapsed on her.

Three-year-old Meg Burgess was killed when a wall designed by George Collier and constructed by his company, Parcol Developments Limited, collapsed on to a public footpath in the Welsh coastal resort of Prestatyn, where she was walking with her mother.

Given Mr Collier’s direct role in the incident, which occurred on 26 July 2008, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided that he should be charged with gross-negligence manslaughter.

Parcol Developments, which has ceased trading, has been charged with an offence under section 3 of the HSWA, but escaped a charge of corporate manslaughter because the CPS did not judge it to be in the public interest to prosecute the firm for such an offence.

Rosemary Ainslie, reviewing lawyer for the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “After considering reports from experts on construction standards and advice from counsel, I have decided that George Collier should be charged with gross-negligence manslaughter for his role in designing and constructing the wall that collapsed.”

She added: “I did consider whether Parcol Developments should also be charged with corporate manslaughter. There is sufficient evidence to prosecute the company for this offence, but it would not be in the public interest to do so. The company had only two directors and Mr Collier was the only one directly involved in this incident. The charge against him is sufficiently serious to address the alleged offending.”

A spokesperson for the CPS confirmed to SHP that “there would be nothing to gain” from prosecuting a now defunct small company for corporate manslaughter when the person “directly responsible” is facing a charge of gross-negligence manslaughter.

Mr Collier has been summonsed to appear at Prestatyn Magistrates’ Court on 3 October.

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12 years ago

After all the ‘fuss’ over the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
this once again goes to show that in fact existing legislation was, in most cases, when properly applied, sufficient to deal with those responsible for such deaths. Of course the high profile incidents which involve unacceptable loss of life on a grand scale may well prove to be the exception but for most businesses and their Directors the HSAWA is still likely to be their undoing in such cases.