A company has become the first to be convicted under new corporate manslaughter legislation, following the death of a young geologist.
The jury in the trial of Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Ltd took just one-and-a-half hours to find it guilty of failing to ensure the safety of Alexander Wright, who died when a pit collapsed on him.
Mr Wright, 27, from Cheltenham, was alone in the 12.6ft-deep unsupported trial pit when it caved in at a development site in Brimscombe Lane, near Stroud, Gloucs, in September 2008.
The prosecution, at Winchester Crown Court, is the first under the new Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The firm denied the charge of corporate manslaughter.
No-one was in the dock during the three-week trial as the director of the company Peter Eaton, 61, is seriously ill and unable to stand trial.
Mark Ellison QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Imperial College graduate Mr Wright had worked for Cotswold Geotechnical for two years.
He was left alone on the site after Mr Eaton left when the cave-in occurred and despite desperate attempts to save him, Mr Wright died from traumatic asphyxia as the weight of the soil crushed his body.
The court heard that industry codes of practice dating back to 1981 reveal the dangers of workers entering pits deeper than 1.2 metres because of the walls of the pit collapsing. Geotechnical’s own health and safety document, written by Peter Eaton in 1992, also said that timbering or support must be used if the depth is greater than 1.2 metres, the jury heard.
The digging of trial pits by the company was wholly and unnecessarily dangerous, the prosecution argued but Mr Eaton said that rule did not apply to geologists who used their judgment on whether it was safe to enter the pit.
The case was adjourned for sentence on Thursday at 2pm and the company now faces an unlimited fine.