Do prosecutions outside the UK affect sentencing in the courts of England and Wales?

The 2009 case of R v Bodycote HIP UK contains an important warning to multinational organisations in the UK in relation to the impact of health and safety prosecutions against their branches abroad.

Two of Bodycote’s employees working at the company’s Hereford manufacturing plant were found collapsed on the stairs leading to a concrete-lined pit into which argon gas had leaked. The two employees subsequently died of asphyxiation. The investigation discovered that the ventilation systems for the pit were not operational and that the low-oxygen-level warning mechanisms had been disabled. The company was fined £533,000 and ordered to pay costs of £200,000, amounts it unsuccessfully sought to reduce on appeal.

Although a very tragic case for all concerned, the fact pattern is not in itself particularly noteworthy apart from a small but significant feature. The court considered, and gave substantial weight to, the fact that a similar incident had occurred a few years earlier, which had led to the death of two employees at a HIP plant in California, US…

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