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Ben Compton QC

Ben Compton QC

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Year of Call:

1979

Silk:

2011


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.

Health, Safety & Environment

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.

Cases

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.

Appointments & Memberships

  • Health & Safety Lawyers Association
  • Western Circuit
  • Recorder (2005)

Awards

  • Health & Safety Silk of the Year (2015)

Areas of Law


Recommendations


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Ben Compton QC Accreditations

Testimonials


“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

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