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Suspended Sentence in recycling plant death prosecution

John Cooper KC secured a suspended sentence order for the shadow director / owner of a waste management company in Dewsbury in respect of a fatal incident involving a young employee in 2018.  Harry Vann represented the company.  John and Harry were instructed by Huw Edwards and Emma Cahill of Kennedys LLP.

The incident occurred when the deceased was trapped in an unguarded conveyor at the start of a heavy industrial recycling line.  Throughout proceedings, the HSE alleged that the shadow director’s culpability for his s.37 offence was Very High for the purposes of the Sentencing Guideline, notwithstanding that it was agreed that culpability for the company was High.  The allegation was made on the basis that he had particular responsibility for the state of the guarding and that he must have known that guarding on the relevant conveyor in particular was missing, since the task he had given the deceased could not otherwise be undertaken.

A Newton hearing was listed to resolve the outstanding factual matters relevant to his knowledge in Leeds Crown Court this week.  Following a Joint Expert Report, an Agreed Basis of Plea was concluded on the first day of the hearing, in which the defendants’ original Basis of Plea was essentially accepted, including the extent of the guarding which had been installed; that the work could, in fact, have been done with the guarding in place; and that the director did not know the guard was missing, but should have done.  The Court agreed that a Newton hearing was no longer required (as both defendants had contended from the outset) and, given the basis of the agreement, applied full credit.  The Court accepted the Defence submission that the shadow director’s culpability could not be more than High, especially in light of the Basis of Plea.

The Small company was fined £200,000; the shadow director was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 200 hours of unpaid work.

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