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Prosecuting Homicide

Murder and manslaughter are two of the offences that constitute homicide.

Manslaughter can be committed in one of three ways:

  1. killing with the intent for murder but where there is provocation, diminished responsibility or a suicide pact.
  2. conduct that was grossly negligent given the risk of death, and resulted in death.
  3. conduct, taking the form of an unlawful act involving a danger of some harm, that caused death.

With some exceptions, the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane):
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing)
  • any reasonable creature (human being)
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs)
  • under the Queen's Peace
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

There are other specific homicide offences, for example, infanticide, causing death by dangerous driving, and corporate manslaughter.

Find out more about prosecuting homicide

Pyranha Mouldings Ltd sentenced for corporate manslaughter following death of an employee in manufacturing oven


Following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the trial Judge passed sentence today whilst sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice. Company director Peter Mackereth was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years and fined £25,000 and Pyranha Mouldings Ltd. were fined £200,000. Pyranha Mouldings Ltd. and Peter Mackereth were also asked to pay costs of £90,000 between them.

Alan Catterall was a supervisor for Pyranha Mouldings Ltd., a company which manufactures plastic kayaks and canoes. On the morning of 23 December 2010 a fault developed on one of the ovens used to create the kayak moulds, which was then out of service whilst maintenance work was carried out. Once the initial fault was fixed Mr Catterall began working on the machine, however the oven was turned back on with Mr Catterall inside. Mr Catterall had no means of escape and no alarm, due to the unique design of the oven which had been developed by Pyranha Mouldings Ltd.

Mark Auty, senior specialist prosecutor with the CPS said, "Mr Catterall's death was caused by the serious failings of his employer, Pyranha Mouldings Ltd. This wasn't just a tragic situation; it was a tragedy waiting to happen. Mr Catterall's death is all the more upsetting because it was avoidable.

"By choosing to take on the design and installation of the machine, Pyranha Mouldings assumed responsibility for its safety. However, the machine clearly endangered the safety of those working with it, including Mr Catterall.

"By their verdict, the jury have decided that Pyranha Mouldings Ltd is responsible for the death of Alan Catterall. This is a sad and distressing case, and our thoughts are with the family of Alan Catterall."

Details of the charges:

Pyranha Mouldings Ltd. guilty of:

  • Corporate Manslaughter, contrary to section 1 of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
  • Failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees pursuant to section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Failing to ensure the safety of an article designed, manufactured and supplied for use at work pursuant to section 6(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Peter Mackereth (Director of Pyranha Mouldings Ltd.) guilty of:

  • Being an officer of a body corporate which committed an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 committed with the consent, connivance or being attributable to the neglect of the office holder, contrary to section 33(1)(a) and s37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as amended
Further information (taken from the prosecution opening):

The circumstances of Mr Catterall's death are quite horrific. On the morning of the accident a fault had developed on one of the ovens. It was out of service for about an hour whilst maintenance work was carried out. The initial fault was fixed and one of the operators turned the machine back on. Tragically, what the operator did not realise was that Mr Catterall was still working inside the oven.

The design of the oven was such that the moment it was switched on its power-operated doors shut and automatically locked with metal bolts on the outside. Mr Catterall was trapped within the oven. There was no means of escape and no alarm. The oven is lined with insulation material, and on the noisy factory floor there was no chance of anyone hearing any cries for help.

The evidence indicates that Mr Catterall made efforts to escape using a metal crow bar, but it was to no avail. He suffered severe burns and died as a result of shock.

There had been repeated problems with the ovens breaking down and with computer failures, and every time that happened the company was losing production. Much of the responsibility for keeping production going through these difficulties would fall on Mr Catterall.

Even in the old factory, there was a practice of going into the ovens to remove drips of plastic. But the new ovens were much more dangerous, for two reasons. First, in the old ovens there was a drip tray which could simply be removed for cleaning. Second, in the previous factory the control panels were positioned directly in front of the ovens with a clear view of what was taking place inside.

There had been a previous incident where someone was inside the oven when the doors started to close. Staff were fearful of being stuck inside the ovens. There was another near-miss incident when a moulder turned the oven on when a fitter was working underneath it changing the belt on a motor.


Notes to Editors

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