Changes to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (“the act”) expected to come into force on 1 September 2011, will have the effect of bringing deaths in custody within the ambit of the act.

First, a Commencement Order will bring into force section 2(1)(d) of the act. Section 2 provides a definition of “relevant duty of care”, breach of which can constitute the offence of corporate manslaughter under the act (assuming the other requirements of the offence are met). Section 2(1)(d) specifies a category of person to whom a relevant duty of care is owed. This category of person is further defined in section 2(2) as someone who is:

(a) ... detained at a custodial institution or in a custody area at a court or police station;

(b) ... detained at a removal centre or short-term holding facility;

(c) ... being transported in a vehicle, or being held in any premises, in pursuance of prison escort arrangements or immigration escort arrangements;

(d) ... living in secure accommodation in which he has been placed;

(e) ... a detained patient.

When the act first came into force it was agreed by Parliament that the commencement of section 2(1)(d) would be delayed to allow custody providers sufficient time to ensure compliance with the law. It was originally envisaged that this delay would be for between three and five years. The Ministry of Justice published reports in July 2008 and 2009 updating Parliament on progress by custody providers. These reports concluded that custody providers would be ready for this change in legislation by April 2011.

The second change will be brought about by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (Amendment) Order 2011, which will add to the category of person included in 2(2) those who are detained in service premises which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence (although not those detained in service premises overseas, for example those detained by British armed forces in Afghanistan) and persons detained for customs purposes in custody areas of UK Border Agency offices.

The changes will apply to England, Wales and Scotland but not to Northern Ireland.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission report in December 2010 identified 333 deaths in police custody between 1998 and 2009. According to the organisation Inquest, over the same period there were 995 deaths in prison custody where the death was self-inflicted, the result of restraint, homicide, or other non-natural causes.