We reported in our last Bulletin on the alterations that the Bill had undergone between its draft stage and being presented to Parliament in July 2006.
After readings in both Houses late last year, during which attempts were made by various individuals to push through what would have been very important amendments, e.g. introducing secondary offences aimed at individual directors/senior managers, the Bill was committed to Grand Committee for further consideration and was recently been published in its latest (but not final) form.
One of the most notable amendments to the Bill, which came about after the Bill’s readings in the Commons, is the widening of the definition of the offence itself. The offence had originally been designed to apply to the way in which a company’s activities are managed or organised by its senior managers if that is both a cause of death and represents a gross breach of the company’s duty of care to the deceased. The offence as it is now drafted still applies to the way in which a company’s activities are managed or organised, but only requires senior management involvement to be a “substantial element”.
More recently, on 5 February the House of Lords voted by a majority of almost 2 to 1 to extend the Bill to cover deaths in police and prison custody. This is contrary to the Government’s position, which has argued that the existing system of inquiries and inquests already caters appropriately for deaths in custody. Although the Prime Minister has moved to scotch rumours that the Lords’ amendment might lead to the Bill being abandoned, he has admitted that the Bill as currently drafted would cause real problems for the workings of the custody system.