Ben Compton secures acquittal in HSE prosecution of Formula One Management Ltd
Ben Compton QC has secured the acquittal of Formula One Management Ltd (FOML), who were being prosecuted by the HSE on a charge under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The case involved contractors who FOML had hired for roof work at one of their sites in Surrey. During the resultant work, an untrained roofer fell through a roof light and was severely injured.
The case against FOML was predicated on the basis that they had not adhered to their own management systems in selecting this particular contractor and further that they permitted work to continue even after the accident.
As part of their case, the HSE relied on a former employee, as one of their witnesses who was in charge of health and safety at the site at the relevant time and who had expressed a lack of knowledge of the written systems. However the defence then served its bundle of documents containing substantial correspondence refuting these assertions.
On the first day of the trial at Southwark Crown Court, the HSE asked for further time to consider their position and on the 12th February 2018 confirmed that they would not be proceeding any further with the case.
This case raises interesting issues over the extent that any prosecution should rely on an important witness without properly investigating his background and available corroborating evidence (in this case, emails and H&S meeting minutes).
It also highlights the importance of instructing an expert at an early stage to examine the systems in place for the appointment and management of contractors, and also the extent that a ‘client’ should actively follow and be expected to have knowledge of the processes with a contractor and in particular the safety precautions required in roof work.
Barristers: Ben Compton QC