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The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act: a guide to the 2007 Act

Introduction

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 has effect from 6th April 2008. For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter and face criminal prosecution as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

This article will be useful reading to all directors of companies, partners in a partnerships, heads of organisations and Government bodies.

While the Act is not a health and safety Act, it will mean that health and safety systems and procedures will have to be evaluated to ensure they are taken seriously. The Act does not impose new standards. It simply introduces a new offence for not complying with current laws, namely health and safety laws.

What is the offence?

An organisation will be guilty of the new offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a death and amounts to a gross breach of a duty of care to the deceased. It will be called corporate manslaughter, or in Scotland, corporate homicide.

What does this mean for my organisation?

Employees of companies, consumers and other individuals will be offered greater protection against corporate negligence. The new law will focus the attention of companies and organisations by ensuring that they take their health and safety obligations seriously.

The new law will make it easier for companies and organisations (large and small) to be prosecuted.

The new law complements the current law under which individuals can be prosecuted for gross negligence, manslaughter and health and safety offences. This occurs when there is direct evidence of their involvement.

What should I do?

You should think again about how risks are managed. You should ensure you are taking proper steps to meet current legal duties. For example, are you conducting risk assessments and are you up to date with fire safety laws?

The test will be whether the conduct fell far below what could have been reasonably expected. Juries will have to take into account any health and safety breaches by the organisation – and how serious and dangerous those failures were.

Penalties

An organisation guilty of the offence will be liable to an unlimited fine. The Act also provides for courts to impose a publicity order, requiring the organisation to publicise details of its conviction and fine. This will be commenced at a later date when sentencing guidelines are available (expected in autumn 2008). Courts may also require an organisation to take steps to address the failures behind the death (a remedial order).

Please note that the information provided on this page:

  • Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
  • Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
  • Does not create a contractual relationship;
  • Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.

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