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Geotechnical director in court on first corporate manslaughter charge

The country’s first corporate manslaughter case began yesterday as a geotechnical company’s director faced Bristol Crown Court.

Peter Eaton and his company Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings is being jointly charged under the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter Act following the death of one of the firm’s junior geologists.

Alexander Wright, 27, was killed while taking soil samples when the sides of the trial pit he was in collapsed. The incident took place in Stroud, Gloucestershire on 5 September 2008.

The landmark charge is the first under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act. It is brought against Eaton’s company as well as Eaton himself “because of the way in which the organisation’s activities were managed or organised, caused the death of a person, namely Alexander James Wright by gross negligence, which amounted to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed to the deceased”.

The new Act was brought in to make it easier to bring companies to justice if the death of an employee can be attributed to serious managerial failings.

Eaton could be jailed for life if convicted of gross negligence and manslaughter, while his firm could be subject to an unlimited fine.

Judge Thomas Crowther QC granted Eaton unconditional bail yesterday until the next hearing before Bristol Crown Court on 19 August, when a plea will be entered.

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