Legal Update 16 July 2015 - Branch Meeting Report

27 July 2015

This was the first “breakfast” meeting organised by the current branch committee after the branch survey in 2014. We anticipated around 50 people would attend but in the end we had double that number. 

Limited refreshments were available and our thanks go to our volunteer committee members for giving up their time to organise and attend the presentations meetings, and to our quality speakers.

Kirsty Gomersal Partner and Solicitor Advocate at Simpson & Marwick Solicitors LLP delivered a packed presentation on current legal matters, building on some of the requests from members attending the recent ‘Keep it Civil’ seminar.

Kirsty discussed Corporate Manslaughter and test points which establish a failure in providing a duty of care.

  • There was a death.
  • The organisation owed a duty of care and.
  • The organisation was in breach of that duty of care.

Kirsty Gomersal - Legal Update 1607015

Kirsty Gomersal

Having explained these key points in detail, Kirsty moved on to give examples of organisations which had failed these tests. The presentation slides showed the costs to the businesses concerned and described the sentencing of Directors and Senior Managers. For many who have management responsibilities in the workplace this was suitably thought provoking.


One manslaughter prosecution of interest in the Yorkshire branch region resulted in the organisation (Sterecycle) going out of business. Sterecycle was prosecuted for the death of one of its workers when an Autoclave machine failed leading to one fatality and another employee sustaining serious injuries. The former maintenance manager was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and the personal charges against him and two Directors were dropped.


  • Modifications were made to the autoclaves without adequately considering the effect on the equipment.
  • Safety devices were removed because they slowed production; and when breakdowns occurred ‘running repairs’ were made without ever getting to the root cause of the problems.
  • Employees were inadequately trained and felt in genuine fear for their safety while on site.
  • The view was taken that production should be maintained at all costs.

Representatives from the company failed to attend court but the Judge had found overwhelming evidence of systemic failures in the running of the machine. A substantial element of the failings could be attributed to senior management and there had been a series of mechanical problems months before the accident. Certain features on the machine had also been inappropriately adapted.

Sterecycle ceased its operations in October 2012 after having been placed into administration. It is unclear how much of the £500,000 fine in that case will be recovered.

Breakfast meeting response

Feedback forms from members who attended the breakfast meeting were very positive; Comments included:

  • I really enjoyed yesterday.
  • the presentation by Kirsty was first class.
  • Very informative.
  • My pen never stopped.

As a result of the success of this breakfast meeting we hope to hold 2 Breakfast Meetings in 2016. This meetings presentation will be available for our members on the Yorkshire branch microsite, look in the members section and follow the links to podbean