The R v. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd appears to be an interesting case in which the United Kingdom government have tightened the noose for those firms that irresponsibly carryout their business thus subjecting the employees to unwarranted deaths. This research paper aims at exploring the case and the applied law in various aspects to obtain factual details, thereby grasping the whole issue. Firstly, the paper seeks to explore the background of the affair to establish the events that have led to the initiation of the lawsuit. Secondly, the essay will explore the rule applied in this case, which is the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, and its brief history. Thirdly, the paper will also examine the importance of the law, consequently studying its contribution towards justice for the employees. Fourthly, the paper will also examine the changes the law has brought in respect to the culpability of corporations in the cases of deaths arising from the workplace processes and conditions. Regarding the provided information, the paper will exhaustively cover all the issues to develop insights on the matter.
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The methodology employed in the paper shall be a literature review of the existing sources about the issue. The study will incorporate a library or a desktop research whereby the researcher will read some academic sources written by other scholars to collect the facts behind the case. The analyst will then combine the facts from various sources to provide a comprehensive research paper. Since the researcher will not originate ideas, the paper will have citations for every point borrowed from another scholar, and by extension, there shall be a reference list to back the citations provided within the paper. In this regard, the research paper shall avoid plagiarism or any other form of academic misconduct.
R v. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd is an important case in the history of the United Kingdom. The company was the first to undergo prosecution and conviction due to allegations of corporate manslaughter under a new law that sought to tame rogue entrepreneurs (Field & Jones 2014). The case also features the only trial that went up to the end, and the verdict that juries concluded. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd was a company owned by Peter Eaton who had employed 13 workers, and he was responsible for the work organisation and the management of the firm (Field & Jones 2014). In consideration of the way Eaton had organised the firm as a sole director, he was fully liable for any legal matters concerning the firm.
The case originated from an accident within Eaton’s firm. In 2008, a junior geologist died while collecting samples of soil from a hole (Construction Industry Council 2011). The incident landed the company in court, and the latter termed the enterprise and the work system as perilous as it had failed to protect the life of the geologist and thus the director was liable for a grave offense (Field & Jones 2014). Therefore, the firm got a $ 385,000 fine but this was below the 500,000 thresholds stipulated by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, and consequently it never met the conditions set by the guidelines (The Crown Prosecution Service 2011; Field & Jones 2014). The Sentencing Advisory Panel had recommended a fine worth 2.5-10% of the firm’s annual profit in the last three years before such an accident. Given that the firm was a small one, the amount imposed as the fine was too high, but the judge decided to reduce the impact by spreading the payment of the fine to 10 years (Field & Jones 2014). Regarding the provided information, it is evident that the case was a harsh challenge to the firm as it caused severe economic losses.
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The company, however, aimed to appeal against the court decision in pursuit of fairer results. The appellate court, however, dismissed the appeal arguing that even though the firm may have to undergo a liquidation after paying the fine, it would not be able to avoid taking action. The court argued that in the Sentencing Guidelines, liquidation of a firm was justified in the case of accidents resulting from improper protection of the employees (Field & Jones 2014). However, due to Eaton’s ill health, the court never instituted a personal case for negligence, as a managing director frequently stipulated that the company and the director have a case each top answer (Field & Jones 2014). In the above case, it appears that in the United Kingdom, companies and their directors are under strict scrutiny by the courts and labour institutions to ensure that they uphold the safety of employees hereby making sure that the former carry out their businesses in an ethical manner.
The Statute Applied in the Decision
In the case, the judges used the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The law came into place in 2008, and many years there were only six cases taken to court under the law, but the law has already become popular resulting in a rise in the number of related cases (Field & Jones 2014; Field 2016). The law was introduced in response to the deficiencies in relation to the approach towards the deaths caused by business activities, and it originated in 1994 under the Law Commission Consultation Paper on Involuntary Manslaughter (National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2011; Stuart 2016). However, the concerns about changes in the law that handles the corporate deaths started in the 1980s after several accidents that claimed numerous lives (Stuart 2016). The consultation paper tackled the issue of involuntary and corporate manslaughter as well as the issue of organisational liability for deaths arising in the process of work in their premises or related sites (Stuart 2016). Regarding the provided information, it is evident that the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 had to inevitably be introduced in the history of the United Kingdom.
The motivation for the adoption of the law was the desire to bring justice to the corporate sector. The commission’s idea of drafting the law was a result of the failed prosecution of the P & O Ferries Ltd. after one of its ferries Herald of Free Enterprise overturned in 1987, leading to the death of 147 persons (Simon 2013; Stuart 2016). The case was just an example of the numerous accidents that had claimed many lives in the period between the 20TH and the 21ST Centuries (Stuart, 2016). The other accidents included the Piper Alpha and the Clapham Rail Crash in 1988, Hatfield Rail Crash in 2000, the Southall Rail Crash in 1997, the King’s Cross Fire in 1987, and the Larkhall gas explosion in 1998 (Stuart 2016). The legal proceedings against these cases never had a significant impact on the businesses, as nothing seems to have made the responsible feel the weight of the incident even after claiming many lives. Concerning the numerous deaths recorded between the 20TH and the 21ST Centuries, it is evident that there was a need for a law to address the issues.
The Importance of the Law
The law sealed the gaps left by the common law offense of gross negligence manslaughter. The common law did not hold accountable some entities such as unincorporated bodies, corporations, partnerships, trade unions, and employer’s organisations for the deaths occurring due to their acts of negligence, as it only prescribed manslaughter charges to the individuals (Field & Jones 2013). In such scenario, the organisations went scot-free for the deaths that resulted from their alleged negligence, thereby always disregarding the safety of the staff as well as other stakeholders. Therefore, the act brought sanity in the corporate sector. It stipulates that if an organisation manages the activities and processes in a manner that causes death or contravenes their duty to take care of people’s lives, then the enterprise as well as its senior management have a liability for the harmful consequences (Field & Jones 2013). In this regard, the employers as well as organisations that handle employees or people in other capacities must take good care of the lives, otherwise they face the undesirable consequences that may arise due to the criminal proceedings tabled against them (Field & Jones 2013). Hence, the law seems to have enforced discipline in the corporate sector as a way of protecting people’s lives, and it was a boost to the already existing common law on manslaughter.
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The law also abolished the principle of identification in the common law. The common law states that the determination of liability exclusively lies on the reference to the mind that directs a company. This implies that the law absconded the companies from blame for actions taken by their managers (Field & Jones 2013). Under the Corporate Manslaughter and the Corporate Homicide Act, the companies have also become liable for actions by the managers that may lead to death or injury of employees without having to prove that the senior manager made a mistake in adherence to the policies of the firm (Field & Jones 2013). By holding companies culpable for such offenses, it is evident that the law brought changes in the employer obligations.
The law has had a significant influence as it has facilitated the prosecution of some companies for alleged negligence. However, there is no much to celebrate since from 2008 when the law came into place there have been only three cases convicted concerning it including two that were the results of pleas of guilty and one of them was the Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd. (Field & Jones 2013). The other firm that fell under a long arm of this law is the JMW Farms Ltd that also pleaded guilty in 2012 followed by the Lion Steel Limited in the same year after a worker fell through a roof in the site and died (Field & Jones 2013). On the examples of the above cases, other firms can learn a hard lesson and thus ensure that they take all the necessary precautions that will keep them safe from such repercussions.
Apart from the imposition of fines, the law also offers remedial measures to the affected companies. It even goes a step further from the fines to the provision of Publicity Orders and Remedial Orders under which a judge can compel an organisation to undertake remedial measures to address a problem leading to a safety compromise or death of the affected party (Field & Jones 2013). Accordingly, the remedial orders are provided in case the company did not address the safety flaws when death or injury occurred and the time when the situation reaches the court for a hearing, specifically when the court enforces the concerned issues (Field & Jones 2013). The law also places a fine on a firm that fails to comply with the orders. The publicity order, on the other hand, entails the naming and shaming of rogue corporations, and this implies obliging the firm to make public the details regarding the offense, the fine imposed, and the terms stated in the remedial order (Field & Jones 2013). Regarding the provided information, it is evident that the law compels the convicted firms to take remedial measures to prevent the occurrence of incidences as well as the publicity requirement to shame them in the eyes of the public.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 also brought liability on the police and other law enforcement agencies by prescribing liability for deaths taking place in their hands. Since 2011 the law has got a great impact on the police force as 49 of the officers were charged with deaths that took place in their hands (Field & Jones 2013). The law classifies the police force as an organisation and a corporate body, thereby eliminating the immunity that they had enjoyed for years. In addition, the law has also touched on the private and public providers of custody, which are also answerable to deaths that take place in the process of transport or detention of people. For instance, the death of Mubenga an Angolan who was in the process of detention and died after the G4S guards restrained him on a plane (Field & Jones 2013). In prison, the police or correctional officers must avoid harming the inmates as well as protect them from other rogue inmates (Field & Jones 2013). Moreover, the officers have the responsibility to ensure that the cells have a safe design that would not promote injuries on the inmates or give them a chance to commit a suicide there. In respect to the provided information, it is evident that the law has tried to instil discipline in the law enforcement by holding the involved officers accountable for deaths that take place in their hands due to acts of negligence.
The effectiveness of the law is questionable, and thus it does not guarantee a considerable feasibility of the law. In the three lawsuits prosecuted under this law, the decision was made that the Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd., JMW Farms Ltd, and the Lion Steel Limited do not have a comprehensive management structure. The situation means that the outcome of the cases could have been possibly the same under the common law of manslaughter (Hadjikyprianou 2016). As such, the law has never applied in a case that involves a firm with a complex management structure; thus, its deficiencies are yet to undergo a suitable test (Hadjikyprianou 2016). Therefore, it is obvious that the law could have some deficiencies that may inhibit its feasibility in establishing corporate liability in firms that have complex management structures. In regard to the provided information, it appears that the law is not yet a success to the people as it may have some flaws that inhibit its usability in corporate liability cases.
The law is weak since it concentrates more on homicide compared to other forms of injuries employees may sustain in the workplace. The law applies only in cases of death, thus ignoring the hundreds of thousands of other cases that occur in the workplaces every year regarding injuries (Sargeant 2014). Furthermore, the law also overlooks other important issues that apply to workplace safety, and these involve assaults and sexual harassment among other vices that the employer must protect the employees against through strict company policies as well as take disciplinary measures against an employee or an executive who perpetrates these acts. In this regard, the law appears to be shallow as it gives much weight to death while disregarding other safety concerns and, consequently, it needs more examination and additions to make it applicable to all problems affecting the safety of people in the workplace.
Changes Brought by the Law
The law made it easy to prosecute corporations for liability against injuries and deaths. In the 20th and the 21st centuries, numerous incidents took place, including the King’s Cross Fire in 1987, the Southall Rail Crash in 1997, Piper Alpha and the Clapham Rail Crash in 1988, the Larkhall gas explosion in 1998, and Hatfield Rail Crash in 2000 (Hadjikyprianou 2016). These accidents claimed many lives as well as inflicted numerous injuries, but no case was successful in seeking justice for the victims. In this regard, it is evident that the firms were immune from legal proceedings for the liability associated with negligence in the manner that they carried out their activities (Hadjikyprianou 2016). However, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came to address the issue by bringing in the issue of corporate culpability and manslaughter. The move seems to have eliminated the idea of shifting culpability from organisations to individuals, thereby promoting facilitation of holding the firms accountable for their negligence. In this case, the judge seeks to know whether a well-run company would have been able to avert or avoid the occurrence of death (Sargeant 2014). As noted above, it is evident that the law has brought a significant change that may help to reduce, if not eliminate, the accidents associated with corporations that have a habit of overlooking the employee’s safety in favour of their economic interests in the form of profits.
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R v. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd is an important case in the history of the United Kingdom concerning the corporate responsibility regarding the employee’s safety. This research was aimed to examine the case and various aspects surrounding the issue, which are the background of the case, the law, applied in the case, the importance of the law, and the implications of the law on corporations. The research employs literature review, and this implies reading the existing academic sources about the issue and avoiding plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct, the work incorporates citations and a reference list. The case originated from an incident whereby an employee of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd died in the process of work. The law applied in the case was the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, and this statute sought to enforce corporate responsibility in the form of manslaughter in cases when people died due to managerial negligence at work. The importance of the law is that it ended the corporate impunity in the cases of deaths in the workplace and this led to the prosecution of some firms. The law made it possible to charge companies with manslaughter unlike in the case where they were exempt from charges. In consideration of the provided insights, the R v. Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd is an important case involving corporate responsibility when workplace associated deaths take precedence, and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a crucial law that facilitates the prosecution of such matters.