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Substantial Fine for a Death Caused by Corporate Negligence

Posted on: February 1st, 2016

A leading power company has been fined £1 million and ordered to pay costs of £153,000 by Chelmsford Crown Court for a death caused by corporate negligence.

On 24th July 2012, four runners from the Saffron Striders running club were training for a forthcoming race when they took a route through a cornfield alongside a public footpath in Newport, Essex. As the lead runner – Dr James Kew – entered the field, he ran into an electric cable carrying 11,000 volts that was sagging at a height of 1.5 metres due to the securing porcelain insulator having disintegrated.

James (41) from Ashton in Essex was killed instantly, and several of his colleagues suffered burn injuries when he completed the electrical circuit from the cable to the ground. The inquest into James´ death heard that the sagging cable had been reported to the National Grid and UK Power Networks thirty minutes prior to the fatal accident but, rather than cut the power in the area, UKPN sent an engineer to investigate. Sadly the engineer arrived twenty minutes too late.

An investigation in James´ fatal accident by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that there had been an “underestimation of the risk to human life”. The HSE prosecuted UK Power Networks under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – effectively charging the company with death caused by corporate negligence.

UK Power Networks pleaded guilty to the charges when the case was heard by Chelmsford Crown Court last week. The company was fined £1 million for a death caused by corporate negligence and order to pay £153,000 towards the cost of the HSE investigation. Speaking after the verdict had been announced, HSE inspector Paul Carter said: “Dr Kew’s family remains completely devastated by their loss and witnesses to this incident have suffered severe trauma and stress-related illness. The incident was entirely preventable”.