08 August 2007
Corporate Manslaughter Act passed
Recently passed legislation will mean that employers whose organisations are managed in a grossly negligent manner and which cause the death of members of staff or members of the public can be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.
The Corporate Manslaughter Act, which was passed last month, has removed a key obstacle to successful prosecutions by eliminating the need to identify a responsible senior manager who embodies the company.
Up until now this meant that, particularly in larger organisations, it was virtually impossible to prosecute a company for deaths arising out of the gross management failings of a company where no one senior manager could be identified as being responsible.
The new law should offer greater protection from gross negligence for employees and members of the public to whom a duty of care is owed.
Now companies can be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter when their gross management failings, which include gross breaches of health and safety legislation, which lead to death.
Furthermore, crown bodies such as government departments and the police will also be liable for prosecution for the first time. Such organisations had previously been immune.
Justice minister Maria Eagle said: "The Corporate Manslaughter Bill is a ground-breaking piece of legislation. This is about ensuring justice for victims of corporate failures. For too long it has been virtually impossible to prosecute large companies for management failures leading to deaths.
"Today's Act changes this, for the first time companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter on the basis of gross corporate failures in health and safety. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act will make it easier to prosecute companies who fail to protect people."
The law permits courts to levy an unlimited fine on companies found guilty of this offence.