Ben Compton QC
Year of Call:
Ben Compton QC is a specialist advocate in health and safety renowned for his extensive experience in civil and criminal courts, subsequent appeals at the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court, together with jury inquests throughout the UK.
He is recognised as one of the country’s leading health & safety law barristers, ranked in Band 1 by Chambers & Partners, and in 2015 he was awarded the accolade of “Health & Safety Silk of the Year” at the Chambers & Partners Bar Awards, having been shortlisted in 2014.
The vast majority of Ben’s health and safety practice is spent representing corporate defendants and company directors and employees in complex workplace accidents, which result in fatalities or serious injuries. His clients have included some of the country’s leading, corporations, retailers, construction companies, care homes, leisure companies and public bodies.
Ben has been involved in many of the highest profile health & safety cases of recent years, including; the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy, the Pescado, the Copthorne legionella case, Potters Bar, the Tebay and the Hednesford rail crashes. In 2008 Ben appeared in the House of Lords in Chargot; widely viewed as the most important case on health and safety in the last decade because of its analysis of risk and what the prosecution have to prove as part of their prima facie case.
The following year he appeared in the Court of Appeal in EGS Ltd, which added further clarification to the Chargot ruling.
In 2012, Ben represented the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Services in the Atherstone on Stour Fire tragedy, following the deaths of four fire fighters in a warehouse blaze – and the property refurbishment company in the Lakanal House Inquest, where six residents died.
Ben has been instructed in most of the major disaster/high profile cases including acting for Beko PLC at the inquest concerning fridge freezer fires in London, the Sterecycle explosion in Rotherham, the double fatality in the apple store on the Earl of Sebourne’s estate, the Linley Developments Ltd, corporate manslaughter and the death on the Woolwich ferry amongst many others.
Following the recent increased sentencing powers of magistrates, he has also represented a number of large companies (Parker Hannifin, Tarmac and others) in the magistrates court with very favourable fines and limited publicity. So far in 2017 he has successfully defended the project manager of DML, charged with gross negligence manslaughter (and section 7), following the window collapse at Hanover Square on the Blaine Gallert construction site. He is currently acting for a number of large corporations including Warburtons, Howdens & Wood Construction.
Ben Compton QC was awarded the accolade of “Health & Safety Silk of the Year” in the 2015 Bar Awards (Chambers & Partners), having been shortlisted in the 2014 Bar Awards.
The majority of Ben’s practice is defending corporate defendants and directors on the most serious criminal charges relating to fatalities or serious injury in the workplace. He has a vast experience in defending in corporate / gross negligence manslaughter prosecutions and also the most serious health and safety cases.
He has a particular knowledge of inquest work having being instructed in a number of high profile inquests such as Lakanal House and Lava Ignite. He also has appeared in a number of fire safety prosecutions under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
R v Claire Gordon
Represented Claire Gordon, a project manager for window manufacturing company Drawn Metal Ltd, in her recent eight week trial for manslaughter by gross negligence and for breaches of section 7 HSWA 1974. She was acquitted of both charges. A set of window frames weighing in excess of 600kg had been delivered and left on the pavement on Hanover Street, by Hanover Square in central London, when they fell and tragically killed a pedestrian Amanda Telfer. The prosecution had alleged Claire Gordon had failed to take steps to ensure the frames were transported, secured and stored safely. The jury rejected the prosecution assertions against her in unanimous not guilty verdicts after three and a half days of deliberations.
R v Parker Hannifin Ltd
Mitigating in one of the first cases, post LASPO (new powers to impose unlimited fines in the magistrates court) to be dealt with at Lincoln Magistrates Court. Successfully persuading the Magistrate to deal with the case involving a fatality where the turnover of the company globally was in excess of a billion pounds. The end result was a reasonable fine (1m) for a high culpability case and limited press exposure.
R v Tarmac Ltd
An asbestos case on board a dredging ship where systematic failures to manage/risk assess asbestos over a long period of time were alleged. Again persuading the Magistrate at Southampton to deal with the case despite the size of the company. Fined 175K with very limited publicity.
R v Pyeroy Ltd
Death of a worker during a refit of a nuclear submarine. Case still live.
R v South Lakes Safari Zoo Limited
Defending the zoo and David Gill, its sole director, in the tiger killing case involving a 24 year old zoo handler, Sarah McClay. Both company and director originally faced a 14 count indictment alleging widespread systemic failures in relation to the running of the tiger house.
However, following successful negotiations, the prosecution agreed to drop all counts (seven in total) including four s.37 allegations against David Gill and the company pleaded on a prepared and limited basis to a section 2 and 3 offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The section 2 offence concerned failings in the zoo’s risk assessment to have a suitable and sufficient maintenance regime in respect of one of the internal tiger house doors which was open at the time of the attack. The section 3 offence likewise concerned the failure of the zoo’s risk assessment to sufficiently address he risks of a big cat escaping from the internal area into the public domain.
Following lengthy mitigation, the case was finally concluded on Friday 9th June when Mr Justice Turner sentenced the zoo to a fine of 255,000 payable over 10 years. A recent press release is available here.
R v Stephen Weaver
Acting for the operations manager in the Sterecycle manslaughter case in Sheffield following an explosion in an autoclave in Rotherham in 2012. Acquitted following a 4 week trial in front of Mr Justice Jay. Instructed by Shoosmiths.
R v Binnings
Gross negligence manslaughter prosecutions of father and son following fatality at farm. Both acquitted of manslaughter and the CPS ordered to pay £50,000 in costs towards the son’s legal expenses. Instructed By BLM.
In the Inquest of Santosh Muthiah
Acting on behalf of Beko PLC in the four week inquest before the coroner of North London following a series of fatal fires in certain models of Beko fridge freezers. Following legal submissions the coroner rejected an unlawful killing verdict in favour of a narrative one. Instructed by Bates Wells & Braithwaite.
R v Warwickshire Council (representing the Warwickshire Fire Services)
Acting for the fire services in the corporate manslaughter trial in front of McDuff J following the deaths of four firemen at the Atherstone on Stour warehouse fire. Case successfully concluded by limited plea to s. 2 HSAWA74 on non-causative basis with a £30K fine.
In the Samuel Boon Inquest
Moroccan Youth trek that ended in the fatality of young student from heat exhaustion acting for the family of the deceased. Coroner highly critical of the company organising the trek. Instructed by Sonn Macmillan Walker.
R v Blackmoor Ltd
The death of the two workers in an air controlled apple store on the Blackmoor Estate in Hampshire. Successfully negotiated a non-causative plea. The co-defendant manager was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter.
R v Parry
Successful defence of a man charged with gross negligence manslaughter following a trench collapse in Herefordshire. (This case went to trial).
R v Linley Developments Ltd
Corporate manslaughter prosecution following a wall collapse on a construction site. The company pleaded guilty and director/site manager pleaded to reduced charges. Fined £180,000.
R v Serco Ltd
Trial: Acting for Serco against allegations under the Merchant Shipping Act following the death of a deckhand on the Woolwich ferry. Acquitted of the most serious charge and fined £200,000 on second charge. (The company had an annual turnover in excess of £2 billion).
In the Matter of Lava Ignite Nightclub
Inquest, acting for the manager of the club following the death of two girls crushed to death following tannoy announcements of the immediate departures of coaches, causing a stampede of clubbers to the exit.
R v Lewisham Houses Ltd
Plea acting for the company set up by Lewisham Council to run their housing stock – double fatality and breach of the RRO following very serious fire in a tower block – this resulted in a £40K fine. He is currently instructed in a number of high profile defences that have yet to reach conclusion, including the zoo keeper killed by a Sumatran tiger at South Lakes Safari Zoo, the lorry crash in Bath which killed four persons and the legionella outbreak at Lewisham NHS Trust, amongst a number of others.
Ben has experience dealing with clinical negligence cases covering a range of areas, including: brain injury, laparoscopic surgery negligence, injuries at birth and loss of a chance.
In the Inquest of Captain Bedworth
Acting for British Airways at the Inquest following the death of one of its senior long haul pilots from a misdiagnosed pulmonary embolisms. The case raised important issues on long haul travel for both pilots and passengers.
In the Inquest of Gladys Jones
Acting for the Lewisham NHS in a complex two week inquest concerning the roles of the Trust, its PFI partner and subcontractors in a case involving repeated outbreaks of legionella in a hospital.
Inquest into the death of Doris Snook
Acting for European Health Group at both the inquest and the crown court sentencing hearing, following the death of an elderly patient suffering from dementia (scalded to death whilst being bathed by two nurses). Following the instruction of two burns experts, the defence was able to demonstrate to the Recorder of Guildford at the sentence hearing that both nurses had lied about their involvement and were highly culpable for the death. Systems were in place and the Judge in recognizing the steps taken by the company post accident to improve safety, passed a fine of 100,000 pounds under the new guidelines. Turnover 14 million.
Brocklesby v Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust
Claimant suffered severe brain damage as a result of being misdiagnosed as having lung cancer. Case settled.
Buttery v Dr Brittain
Petra Resolva v University College London Hospital – acting for Claimant following substandard appendicectomy with resultant infection. Case settled.
In the Matter of Dr Niven
Acting for neuro radiologist at Inquest stage following allegations of negligence in failing to identify false aneurysm in angiogram on four year old boy following collapse at home with substantial brain damage.
In the Matter of Vijay Harikshiva
Acting for young doctor at Inquest stage following insertion of female catheter into elderly male patient who subsequently died.
In the Matter of Lucas Starchursky
Acting for consultant paediatrician in charge of nine month old boy with Sturge Webber disease who was administered with enormous overdoses of phenytoin leading to death.
In the Matter of Rita Edith Dare
Acting for junior doctor at Inquest stage – allegation that he had failed to spot NG tube in stomach resulting in death.
In the Matter of Carmel Shellar
Acting for Tesco’s at Inquest following the incorrect prescribing of medication from a Tesco pharmacy, which led to death of patient.
Ben has particular interest in equine cases and including catastrophic brain and spinal injury cases. He has been involved in numerous contested hearings, mainly for insurers in cases involving equine accidents and the Animals Act 1971.
Defending in Motoring accidents of the utmost severity.
R v Matthew Gordon
Defending the owner of the runaway lorry charged with four counts of manslaughter, that killed four people in Bath and injured others when its brakes failed whilst travelling in a width restricted area. Convicted after a five week trial in front of Mr Justice Langstaff. A difficult and high profile case which required skilful tactics to attempt to reflect mitigation during the trial and to reduce sentence on conviction. Tactics which succeeded. (anticipated sentence 10-12 reduced to 7.5 years)
R v John Green
A death by careless following the death of a cyclist at the interchange at Ludgate Circus with a large lorry. The case went to trial at the Old Bailey and turned on expert evidence as to lines of vision. Following conviction the defendant received a community service order.
Appointments & Memberships
- Health & Safety Lawyers Association
- Western Circuit
- Recorder (2005)
- Health & Safety Silk of the Year (2015)
Areas of Law
- Business Crime
- Clinical Negligence
- Disciplinary & Regulatory
- Health, Safety & Environment
- Marine & Fisheries
- Law In Sport
- Personal Injury
- International Illness, Injury & Travel
“He has a way with the jury and builds instant rapport with clients.” Health & Safety, Legal 500 2017
“He is the genuine article. He is very, very polished, highly professional and an absolute pleasure to work with.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2017
“One of the best jury advocates” and “without a doubt fantastic for corporate manslaughter cases.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2017
“His advocacy skills are superb and his preparation meticulous.” Health and Safety, Legal 500 2016
“He understands health & Safety and is an excellent advocate. When he addresses a judge he has real authority. Juries love him.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2016
“He is someone that people listen to – including judges – and as a result is extremely persuasive in his arguments.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2016
“Great with the lawyer, great with the judge, and great at cross-examination.” “He’s very good with clients, as he’s keen to engage and be inclusive.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2015
“A leading-quality silk who gives you complete assurance.” Health & Safety, Legal 500 2015
“Very approachable, he offers sound advice and has a good client manner.” “He is meticulous in his preparation and good with clients. He’s also very good on his feet in front of a judge.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2014
“One source described him as “a most beautiful courtroom performer, who is very laid-back but in a way that makes him very effective as an advocate. He is highly cerebral, which is why opponents have to be on their mettle with him.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2013
“Hugely industrious and commands the respect and trust of clients immediately.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2012
“Extremely professional and communicates well with clients.” Health & Safety, Legal 500 2011
“A true health & Safety specialist, who is a highly thoughtful advocate with a good manner before juries.” “Absolutely brilliant with clients, from directors down to the man who drives the truck.” Health & Safety, Chambers & Partners 2011