The new corporate manslaughter offence and the human rights act 1998
A question raised during the reform process was whether the new act was compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998.
This is because it was argued that the offence contained a number of significant restrictions which limited (a) the application of the offence in relation to public bodies (b) did not allow it to apply to many unincorporated bodies, indluding partnerships and unincorporated assocations.
The Joint parliamentary commitee on human rights argued for example that this made the act in breach of
"the positive obligation to protect life in Article 2 ECHR [which] required the UK to ensure that it is possible under its criminal law to bring a prosecution in circumstances where there has been a serious breach of the right to life as a result of the gross management failure of a private or public organisation, but no identifiable individual within the organisation can be proved to be responsible for the failure."
The Government made a number of amendments during debate in the Lords that meant the offence will apply
- to partnerships, trade union and employer associations that were employers
- to deaths resulting from police and prison custody (though this will only begin to apply within 3 to 5 years.)
However there remains significant gaps in the application of the offence - particularly in relation to deaths from public bodies. These may well be challengeable as being in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998
- To read a summary of the exemptions, click here.
- To understand more about how these exemptions apply, see the CCA guidance
- To see the parliamentary human rights report