Lion Steel Limited has become the third company in the UK to be convicted of corporate manslaughter in the UK after pleading guilty to the offence following a three-week-long trial at Manchester Crown Court.

The Cheshire-based storage manufacturer admitted the charge in relation to the death of 45-year-old employee Steven Berry, who suffered fatal injuries when he fell through a fragile roof panel at the firm’s site on Johnson Brook Road in May 2008.

Company directors – Kevin Palliser, Richard Williams and Graham Coupe – originally faced charges of gross negligence manslaughter and failing to ensure the health and safety of their employees under Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. In addition, Lion Steel faced a charge under Sections 2 and 33 of the HSWA 1974 of failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

However, when the trial began on 12 June, the corporate manslaughter charge against Lion Steel was set aside or ‘severed’ from the indictment. The three directors were then tried on the gross negligence manslaughter and HSWA charges and the company was tried on the HSWA charge. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) intended to prosecute the company on the corporate manslaughter charge in a separate trial to be heard following the conclusion of the first case.

However, on 2 July, the judge ordered that the gross negligence manslaughter charges against Richard Williams and Graham Coupe be dropped. The prosecution then dropped all remaining charges against the individuals and the HSWA charge against Lion Steel, and the company entered a guilty plea to the corporate manslaughter charge.

Alison Storey, Specialist Prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime Division, said:

“Lion Steel Ltd has today pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Square to the corporate manslaughter of Steven Berry at the Hyde site on Johnson Brook Road.

“Steven Berry fell through a fragile roof panel and tragically died as a result of injuries sustained in the fall on 29 May 2008.”

Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings became the first company to be convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2008 last year and was fined £385,000. A Northern Ireland firm, JMW Farms Limited (Co. Armagh) was fined £187,500, plus £13,000 costs in May following the death of a farm worker.

Lion Steel Ltd will be sentenced on 19 July.