First healthcare sector conviction for corporate manslaughter

A care home director has been sentenced to 38 months in prison and his company fined £300,000 following the death of an elderly resident.

Yousaf Khan, 47, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter through gross negligence of Ivy Atkin, 86, who died in November 2012 at the Sherwood Rise care home in Nottingham.  The corporate entity, Sherwood Rise Limited also pleaded guilty.  The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Sherwood Rise Limited is the first care home company to be sentenced under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.

This is the first healthcare sector conviction under the new Sentencing Guidelines for health and safety offences.  The prosecution follows adverse findings in a CQC investigation. 

There is a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Care Quality Commission, the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities in England. The purpose of the memorandum is to help ensure that there is effective, coordinated and comprehensive regulation of health and safety for patients, service users, workers and members of the public visiting care premises. It is one of the measures taken by Government to close the ‘regulatory gap’ identified by the Francis Report into failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.  This case makes clear that findings pertaining to health and safety by other regulators, such as the CQC, can support prosecutions for Corporate Manslaughter.

Whilst the Sherwood Rise care home had ceased trading by the date of sentencing and the company was classed as a “micro company” (defined under the new sentencing guideline as those with a turnover of not more than £2 million) the fine imposed was still very large. Within this bracket, the maximum fine that can be imposed where there is a “very high culpability” is £450,000. Given that the company pleaded guilty at an early stage of proceedings, reducing any fine by up to one third, the fine of £300,000 levied reflects this degree of culpability. 

The rigidity with which the sentencing guidelines have been imposed on a company that was no longer trading should cause companies at all levels to consider their own risk management.  This is particularly the case given that this prosecution was coupled with individual prosecutions, which can lead to imprisonment.

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Author: Simon Naylor

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

Paul Matthews

Partner - Head of Regulatory (Yorkshire and North East)

I am a Partner in the Regulatory team and a corporate defence specialist who provides up-front regulatory compliance advice and representation to businesses and senior managers in relation to investigations and prosecutions by regulatory bodies.