R v Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (formerly Rochdale Healthcare NHS Trust) [2003] EWCA Crim 3436

NHS Trust -health and safety – transfer of liabilities – dissolution – criminal liability


The (Pennine) Acute Hospitals NHS Trust faced trial on one count failing to ensure the health and safety at work of employees contrary to s33(1) Health and Safety at Work Act 1997. Rochdale NHS Trust (Rochdale) had been the defendant Trust at the time of the offence but was dissolved on 1 April 2002.


The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (Establishment) and the Rochdale Healthcare Trust (Dissolution) Order 2002 transferred all the “property, rights and liabilities” of Rochdale to Pennine on 1 April 2002. The issue was whether Rochdale’s criminal liability was transferred so that Pennine could be held to account for the alleged offence committed by Rochdale before it was dissolved.


The Court of Appeal Criminal Division held that clear language was required to transfer criminal liability. Schedule 2, paragraph 30 National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 gave no power to transfer criminal liability from an old to a new trust. Further, there was nothing in the 2002 Order to suggest that it was intended by Parliament that criminal liability should be transferred.

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