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James Maxwell-Scott KC and Katie Sage recently represented Serco Ltd in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive

The facts of the incident giving rise to the HSE’s investigation were unusual – a prison custody officer was assaulted by a prisoner attending Blackfriars Crown Court. Very sadly she died of her injuries a few days later. According to the Ministry of Justice, this is the only known instance in this jurisdiction of a prison custody officer being killed in the line of duty.

The prisoner subsequently pleaded guilty to diminished responsibility manslaughter. Nevertheless, the HSE pursued a prosecution of the deceased’s employer, Serco Ltd.

Following a long investigation, the HSE laid an indictment that spanned three years (2014 – 2017) and the case summary alleged a multitude of breaches of s.2 Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Given the extended time period of the indictment and the many breaches alleged, Serco Ltd pleaded guilty on a limited basis. The remaining issues were left to the Court to determine at a Newton Hearing.

The Newton Hearing lasted 17 days. The Court heard evidence from employees of the company and experts, principally in the field of Control & Restraint. At the Newton Hearing, the prosecution alleged that some of the breaches were continuing in 2023, some 8 years after the fatal attack, and submitted that the Court should make a Remediation Order.

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, having noted improvements in the priority given to the health and safety of staff and in Serco Ltd’s health and safety procedures, declined to make a Remediation Order. After discount for its guilty plea, Serco Ltd was fined £2.25 million.

James and Katie were instructed by Ciaran Garnett of Plexus Law.

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