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Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Some info about the new act due to come into effect in April 2008

Some key facts professionals will need to know

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

The Act, which will come into force on 6 April 2008, clarifies the criminal liabilities of companies including large organisations where serious failures in the management of health and safety result in a fatality.

Justice Minister Maria Eagle said;

"It is extremely important that companies and other organisations take health and safety seriously. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences - not only for the families of those affected but also for the businesses involved.

"This law will ensure that there is proper accountability - when very serious management failings lead to people being killed. This is not about over-regulation. Businesses should see this as an opportunity to make sure they have proper arrangements in place for managing health and safety. It is crucial for the people they employ and their customers that they are responsible and successful corporate citizens."

Key Benefits of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act

  • To make it easier to prosecute organisations then their gross negligence leads to death.
  • The new offence aims to rectify a key defect in the present law that means that organisations can only be convicted of manslaughter if a single individual at the very top of the company is also personally liable. This fails to reflect the reality of decision-making in large organisations.
  • The offence will apply to corporate organisations and Crown bodies - such as Government departments - they will be on the same footing as their private sector counterparts when carrying out similar activities.
  • The offence will be clearly linked to existing health and safety requirements and those who already take their obligations under health and safety law seriously have nothing to fear.
  • The offence is focused on corporate liability and does not apply to individual directors or others.
  • Prosecutions against individuals will continue to be possible for existing offences - including manslaughter/culpable homicide and health and safety offences - where they themselves are personally at fault.
  • From 6 April 2008, organisations whose gross corporate failures in health and safety lead to the death of individuals will face prosecution for manslaughter and an unlimited fine.

So in effect and put simply, it means that an organisation will be directly responsible, if any of its business activities result in a gross breach of a duty of care that causes the death of an employee.

Obviously, it is in the best interests of both the organisation and its employees to take every reasonable and practicable precaution to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone affected by their activities.

Organisations will need to ensure that they create a safe working environment and it would be wise to review existing health and safety policies to ensure they are up to date and robust prior to the act coming into force.

If you are an employer you really do need to familiarise yourself with the Act: It is essential that you are aware of the details of the Corporate Manslaughter Act and ensure that you understand its implications for your business.

All employees need to be aware of the new legislation, so training should be underway in order to make certain that your organisation is ready for the new act.

It's critical that you have appropriate insurance in place before April the 6th, check your policy - is it appropriate?

Download the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (PDF)

Download Explanatory Notes for the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (PDF)

There's a lot to take on board with this new legislation - and the new offence will apply to a specific case if:

  • The deceased was an employee of the organisation involved, was working for the organisation involved or performing specific services for the organisation.
  • The death was connected to goods or services that were supplied by that organisation.
  • The death was connected to construction or maintenance carried out by the organisation
  • The death was connected to an activity pursed by the organisation commercially
  • The death occurred through the use or keeping by the organisation of plant, vehicles, equipment or other materials.
  • The death occurred on the premises occupied or owned by the organisation.

Ministry Of Justice Website for more information

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20th March 2008
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Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
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