Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Act on Manslaughter; Legal Clinic in Association with RBS Tim Hill Regulatory Associate in the Newcastle Office of International Law Firm Eversheds, Answers Questions Surrounding the Corporate Manslaughter Act

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Act on Manslaughter; Legal Clinic in Association with RBS Tim Hill Regulatory Associate in the Newcastle Office of International Law Firm Eversheds, Answers Questions Surrounding the Corporate Manslaughter Act

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Hill

WHAT is the Corporate Manslaughter Act? For more than 10 years there has been significant political commitment to reforming the law in relation to workplace deaths.

Successive high profile accidents have led to frequent calls for changes in the law following failed prosecutions for manslaughter against all but the smallest comp anies.

The law as it currently stands has come under fierce criticism as organisations can only be convicted of corporate manslaughter once an individual, identifiable as the "directing mind of the company", has been found personally guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. Making this link between the individual and his or her role as a directing mind of the company has often been very difficult.

The Corporate Manslaughter Act, which comes into effect on April 6, 2008, aims to address this problem. It creates a single new corporate manslaughter offence applicable to an organisation "if the way in which ... activities are managed or organised causes a person's death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased". An organisation is guilty of the new offence "only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach".

What will the new law mean for businesses?

The Government says in its guidance that it only expects the new law to be applied to the most serious and obvious cases and those organisations with good safety policies have nothing to fear. There may be only a dozen or so prosecutions under the new legislation every year. But the reality is that every workplace fatality already results in an investigation commenced by the police looking at the possibility of manslaughter before passing on responsibility to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or local authority to investigate health and safety breaches.

Once the new law is in force, the police will have to look at the new corporate manslaughter offence so will remain involved in any workplace fatality investigation for longer and there is likely to be considerable pressure to test the water with the new offence. …

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