The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, given Royal Assent last July, came into force on 6 April 2008. The Ministry of Justice has published an introduction to the new Act Understanding the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
The Act sets out a new offence for convicting an organisation where a gross failure in the way activities were managed or organised results in a personâ€™s death, a stand-alone provision for prosecuting companies to complement offences primarily aimed at individuals. This will apply to a wide range of organisations across the public and private sectors. Under a new approach, courts will look at management systems and practices across the organisation, providing a more effective means for prosecuting the worst corporate failures to manage health and safety properly. Details of the offence are contained in s.1 of the Act:-
Corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide
1.(1) An organisation to which this section applies is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised-
(a) causes a person’s death, and
(b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.
1.(2) The organisations to which this section applies are-
(a) a corporation;
(b) a department or other body listed in Schedule 1;
(c) a police force;
(d) a partnership, or a trade union or employers’ association, that is an employer.
1.(3) An organisation is guilty of an offence under this section only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach referred to in subsection (1).
1.(5) The offence under this section is called-
(a) corporate manslaughter, in so far as it is an offence under the law of England and Wales or Northern Ireland;
(b) corporate homicide, in so far as it is an offence under the law of Scotland.
Enabling Provision: s.1 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
Triable Status: Indictable only.
Max. Sentence on Indictment: Unlimited fine.
(see Criminal Offences Handbook (4th edition), ed M.Gribbin, available at legal bookshops or direct from Anya Designs Ltd)
The 2007 Act will mean that those who disregard the safety of others at work, with fatal consequences, are more vulnerable to very serious criminal charges. 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. A substantial part of the failure within the organisation must have been at a senior level. This includes both centralised, headquarters functions as well as those in operational management roles. The organisationâ€™s conduct must have fallen far below what could have been reasonably expected.
For the full text of the Act go to www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2007/pdf/ukpga_20070019_en.pdf