The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill received Royal Assent on 26 July 2007 becoming the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 ("the Act").
Companies whose gross negligence leads to the death of individuals will now face prosecution for corporate manslaughter (in England) or corporate homicide (in Scotland). An organisation will be guilty of such an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management causes a person's death and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by that organisation to the deceased.
The Act applies the offence to corporations, police forces, partnerships, trade unions or employers associations who are employers and various government departments listed in a schedule to the Act including the Scottish Executive, Department for Work and Pensions and Ministry of Defence.
The Act applies solely to organisations. An individual member of a senior management team cannot be guilty of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring (or, in Scotland, be art and part in) the commission of an offence under the Act.
Health and Safety legislation continues to apply. An organisation can be convicted of corporate manslaughter/homicide arising out of a particular set of circumstances and can also face prosecution for an offence under any health and safety legislation arising out of some or all of those circumstances. Individual directors or managers may still be prosecuted under existing health and safety laws.
On conviction, an organisation is liable to a fine and, possibly, if the court so orders, a remedial order requiring the organisation to take specified steps to remedy the breach and any deficiencies in the organisation's policies, systems and practices.
The government considers that the Act sends out a powerful deterrent message to those organisations which do not take their health and safety responsibilities seriously. The Act is intended to build on existing health and safety legislation and, as far as the government is concerned, does not impose new regulations on business.
A copy of the Act can be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2007/20070019.htm.
The Act is due to come into force on 6 April 2008. Guidance for organisations affected by the Act is to be issued by the Ministry of Justice in the Autumn.
The material contained in this e-update is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any...