Fines, Companies, Company Directors and Proportionality

A company and its director, who were originally fined £96,000 and £14,000 respectively following breaches of Health and Safety law, which led to the death of an employee The fines were reduced to £80,000 and £10,000 by the Court of Appeal.The case involved an employee of a vehicle-recovery firm. He died as a result of a workplace accident. The company and its managing director were prosecuted, the prosecution proving that the company and its management required and encouraged working practices which were known to be dangerous. The man’s death was the direct result of this approach and occurred when a vehicle which was being raised in an unsafe manner fell on him and crushed him.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal considered that the original judge had failed to take account of the relatively modest financial position of both the company and its managing director and therefore reduced the fines.

The reduction in the fines was relatively small, still leaving the company and its managing director facing substantial liabilities in line with what the court believes to be appropriate in such severe cases. By the time the costs of the appeal hearing have been met, the actual reduction in liability is likely to be very modest. The courts have little sympathy for companies which take a cavalier attitude to or wilfully endanger their employees.