Law Sidesteps Thorny Issue of Prosecution for Individuals; in Association with RBS: "MORE Than 20 Years after a Major Maritime Disaster, a New Corporate Manslaughter Act Has Been Introduced. Jonathan Dunkley, Partner with Commercial Law Firm Muckle LLP, Looks at the Implications."

The Journal (Newcastle, England), April 9, 2008 | Go to article overview

Law Sidesteps Thorny Issue of Prosecution for Individuals; in Association with RBS: "MORE Than 20 Years after a Major Maritime Disaster, a New Corporate Manslaughter Act Has Been Introduced. Jonathan Dunkley, Partner with Commercial Law Firm Muckle LLP, Looks at the Implications."


ALMOST 200 passengers and crew of the Herald of Free Enterprise died on March 6, 1987, after the ferry capsized as a result of criminal acts and gross negligence throughout the operating company.

Over the next decade there were a series of further disasters, all involving significant loss of life and all caused by management failure and criminal neglect.

Confidence in the deterrent effect of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 evaporated as prosecutions for manslaughter collapsed in each case.

A Law Commission Report in 1996 indicated a determination to tackle this and redress a growing perception that killers in smart suits were being allowed to "get away with it".

So almost 21 years to the day after the Herald of Free Enterprise tragedy, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force on Sunday.

The new offence only applies to organisations, including companies, partnerships, trade unions and employers' associations and certain government departments and public bodies, as well as the police force. It does not apply to individuals, such as company directors or managers, who will continue to be subject to the common law offence of manslaughter by gross negligence.

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 person's death. It sets out an entirely new approach, under which 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.

If an organisation's conduct has "fallen far below what could have been reasonably expected" and if the failure is "at a senior level" then a jury is likely to convict that organisation of corporate manslaughter. …

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Law Sidesteps Thorny Issue of Prosecution for Individuals; in Association with RBS: "MORE Than 20 Years after a Major Maritime Disaster, a New Corporate Manslaughter Act Has Been Introduced. Jonathan Dunkley, Partner with Commercial Law Firm Muckle LLP, Looks at the Implications."
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