Prosecutors intend to prove that senior management failings led to the death of a junior geologist

A Gloucestershire based company, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings, has become the first UK company to be charged under new Corporate Manslaughter laws.

The case relates to the death of Alexander Wright, a junior geologist, on September 5, 2008, who was taking soil samples from a pit when the sides collapsed and crushed him.

The company is charged with causing the death of Wright through systemic failings.

One of the company’s directors, Peter Eaton, has been charged with common law manslaughter and an offence relating to his consent, connivance or negligence as a director. The charge carries a maximum life sentence.

The Crown Prosecution Service will be exploring whether they can prove it was a senior management failing that led to Wright’s death.

“One of the company's directors, Peter Eaton, has been charged with common law manslaughter.

Cotswold indicated that it intends to plead not guilty.

Mark Ellison QC, who frequently deals with high profile cases, most recently the Bristol Bomber, has been appointed lead prosecutor.

“For now, the fact of a prosecution under the Act highlights the need for companies to be aware of the importance of having in place robust and effective health and safety procedures to prevent such allegations following an incident and adequate insurance cover to cover the costs of any necessary defence,’ commented Andrew Stokes, head of the Safety, Health & Environmental Group at national commercial law firm Beachcroft LLP.

The trial will take place on February 23, 2010. It is expected to last between four to six weeks.