On 23 May 2015, restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman was convicted of manslaughter. This BBC News report contains a decent account of the facts.
Zaman owned the Indian Garden restaurant in North Yorkshire along with another five restaurants. Zaman was said to have swapped almond powder, used in numerous dishes served by the restaurants, for a cheaper alternative. That alternative however contained peanuts.
A small percentage of the population are allergic to peanuts – in differing degrees. However the consequences of an allergic reaction can be fatal, causing a person to go into anaphylactic shock.
The victim, Mr Paul Wilson, aged 38, ordered a chicken tikka masala and specified “no nuts” when placing the order. That instruction was written on the lid of his take-away order. Paul Wilson ate the curry, and, due to the presence of peanuts, suffered an allergic reaction and died. Prior to his death, he attempted to make himself vomit after realising that he had eaten something containing peanuts.
Three weeks prior to Paul Wilson’s death, another customer had suffered an allergic reaction to peanuts and as a result had been hospitalised.
The BBC News report noted that Zaman also employed untrained and illegal workers.
He was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. Zaman tried to deflect the blame onto others, claiming that he left his managers to run the restaurants. The jury obviously disbelieved him however and convicted him.
The judge imposed a sentence of six years’ imprisonment.
The judge commented that he had remained “in complete and utter denial” and had ignored warnings from officials in relation to the earlier peanut allergy incident.
Manslaughter is the offence with the widest range of sentences: discharge up to life imprisonment.
Manslaughter cases are very difficult to sentence as they often involve low culpability.
In this case, the culpability was high. Zaman acted in pursuit of profit. He cut costs and in doing so caused a death. He had been warned about the dangers of using the cheaper nut power when the customer was hospitalised three weeks before Paul Wilson’s death but chose not to act.
He does not have the benefit of a guilty plea and it appears that, save for general “good character” mitigation, there is little that could be said on his behalf.
So far as gross negligence cases go, this is towards the upper end of the range of sentences seen. It is hard to say that that is undeserved given the picture painted of Zaman as a profit hungry businessman who willingly put his customers at risk for the sake of money.
An appeal – though perhaps worth a go in light of how difficult manslaughter cases are to sentence – is unlikely to succeed. In fact, the sentence might have been higher.