Shoosmiths secures acquittal for client charged with health and safety offence

Shoosmiths secures acquittal for client charged with health and safety offence

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Author: Andrew Tatlock

Phil Ryan and Andrew Tatlock acted for Mr Steven Weaver who was charged with failing to take reasonable care at work contrary to section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 - a charge that carries the prospect of a custodial sentence.

"Once again thank you for all your help in the defence; despite the circumstances I really enjoyed working with you and the team. It gave me great reassurance to have such a good defence team around me at all times."

Mr Steven Weaver

The prosecution arose from a fatal explosion at the Sterecycle waste recycling plant in Rotherham in January 2011. Sterecycle (Rotherham) Ltd the company Mr. Weaver worked for faced a charge of corporate manslaughter - one of the earliest prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Two of Mr. Weaver's colleagues also faced similar charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After four weeks at trial Mr. Weaver was acquitted on the direction of the judge, Mr. Justice Jay, after the prosecution decided to offer no further evidence and drop the case. His two colleagues were also acquitted on the direction of the judge. A week later the company was convicted of corporate manslaughter and fined £500,000.

The acquittal brings to an end a three year investigation following the fatal accident in which Mr. Weaver was interviewed by South Yorkshire Police on a number of occasions and some 330,000 documents were served on Shoosmiths as part of the evidence in the case. The volume of evidence required the assistance of a number of legal advisors at Shoosmiths, all brought in to assist with a large scale document review.

The team at Shoosmiths worked alongside Outer Temple Chambers (Ben Compton QC and Robert Dickason) to provide a full defence representation during the investigation and at trial. The defence case had always remained that Mr. Weaver was not responsible for the safe maintenance of the machine that catastrophically ruptured and that he discharged his health and safety responsibilities at all times.