On 22 December 2015, Baldwins Crane Hire Ltd was sentenced to a fine of £700, 000 at Preston Crown Court after being found guilty of corporate manslaughter and related health and safety offences. The company was also ordered to pay all of the Crown Prosecution Service’s costs and half of the Health and Safety Executive's costs (amounting to some £200,000). The conviction followed the death of one of the company’s employees, Lindsay Easton, in 2011. At the time of Mr Easton’s death he was driving a 16 wheel, 130 tonne crane down an access road and crashed into an embankment after failing to negotiate a steep bend.
In sentencing the company, Judge Pamela Badley said “The jury decided the cause of the crash was brake failure and it was as a result of gross negligence on the part of senior management of the company who had failed to put systems in place for safe working and monitoring.” Similar comments were made by a CPS spokesperson: "The company had a duty of care to its employees to maintain the crane to ensure it was safe and roadworthy. This hadn't happened. The jury also found that the company had put other road users at risk due to poor maintenance of its vehicles”. The investigation by Lancashire police and the HSE revealed widespread maintenance failures across the company’s fleet of cranes, including the crane that was being operated by Mr Easton. Investigations also showed deficiencies in the organisation’s maintenance records and lack of supervision by senior management.
Baldwins has also been ordered to publish details of the incident and conviction on its website for six months and to put a notice in trade magazine, Construction News, within three months.
The level of the fine reflects the trend towards higher fines for serious health and safety offences ahead of the coming into force next month of new sentencing guidelines for corporate manslaughter (and health & safety offences).