Responding to a recent question by Emily Thornberry during Attorney-General’s questions Dominic Grieve stated that there are currently in the region of fifty cases under referral to the CPS where corporate manslaughter is one of the potential offences under consideration. This seems a surprisingly high number given that there have only been two prosecutions so far in the four years since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act came into force, one of which is yet to come to trial. It may however indicate that it is merely the length of the investigations in these cases – four or five years is not unusual – that is the reason for the small number of prosecutions to date, and that more prosecutions are in the pipeline.
Mr Grieve went on to state that of the five cases in which CPS have now concluded their advice, only one has resulted in corporate manslaughter charges. In the other four cases gross negligence manslaughter charges were brought against individuals and health and safety charges against the companies involved. This may give some indication of the difficulties posed by these cases: if the same proportion of the cases that are currently under review are charged it will result in only 10 prosecutions. That may equate to something in the region of three cases per year over the four years since the act came into force.
Based on the experience of practitioners in this area even that number may be thought to be optimistic. In any event it will certainly be months and probably years before a clearer picture emerges of the extent to which the offence is being prosecuted.
See the full text of Dominic Grieve’s response here.