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Press Release

CCA Comment on Guardian story: "Firms Face Corporate Killing Law"

It was reported in the Guardian today that David Blunkett will tomorrow (Tuesday) make clear the government's intention to introduce a new offence of 'corporate manslaughter'.

It must be assumed that 'the new offence of corporate manslaughter' means the offence of 'corporate killing' that was first proposed by the Law Commission in 1996, and subsequently approved by the Government in its consultation document of 2000.

This offence would allow a company to be prosecuted if it can be shown that there was a very serious management failure on the part of the company that was 'a cause' of the death. The management failure would have to have 'fallen far below what could reasonably be expected.'

In assessing any proposed offence of 'corporate killing' by the Government, it is important to look at the following issues:

•  does it apply to all employing organisations, or only private companies.
The Law Commission said it should only apply to companies, but the Government, in its consultation document, said it should apply to all employing organisations.
does it apply to crown bodies, or are they excluded from its application.
The Government in its consultation document said it should not apply to Crown bodies, but in the responses to the Government's consultation documents employer organisations, unions and other respondees were almost all of the view that crown bodies should not be exempt
does it apply to British companies that commit the offence abroad.
It is current law that British citizens that commit the offence of manslaughter abroad can be prosecuted in Britain, but in its consultation document the Government was not of the view that British companies that commit the offence abroad should be able to be prosecuted in Britain.
Can directors be prosecuted for 'contributing' to an offence of 'Corporate Killing
The Government in its consultation document said that it was considering created an additional offence which would allow a director to be prosecuted if it could be shown that the director or senior manager had 'contributed to' or 'significantly contributed' to the offence committed by the company. However, more recently, the Government in a letter to companies as part of its 'regulatory impact assessment' stated that it no longer supported such a reform.
Who will investigate and prosecute the offence.
Currently manslaughter is investigated by the police with the assistance of the Health and Safety Executive or other regulatory agency. It is then prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service. The Government proposed in its consultation document that apart from in the case of disasters, the police's role in the investigation would be minimised and investigation responsibility would pass to the HSE or other regulatory body. The HSE would also be responsibility for its prosecution

For more information

•  To see the Guardian story, click here
•  To read about the current law of manslaughter, Click Here
•  To see details of manslaughter convictions, acquittals and on-going cases, Click Here
To read about the proposed new offence of 'corporate killing' click here


To contact the CCA: 0207 490 4494



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Page last updated on November 22, 2003