Earlier this summer the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill received Royal Ascent and the new Act will come into force on 6 April 2008. Under the new law companies, organisations (including partnerships with employees) and, for the first time, Government bodies face an unlimited fine if they are found to have caused death due to their gross corporate health and safety failures. The new Act will not, however, introduce any new criminal offences for individual directors or managers of an employer, as had initially been proposed.
The Government claims that the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act:
- will make it easier to prosecute companies and other large organisations when gross failures in the management health and safety lead to death by delivering a new, more effective basis for corporate liability;
- has reformed the law so that a key obstacle to successful prosecution has now been removed. Employers both small and large will be held liable for manslaughter where gross failures in management of health and safety cause death, not just health and safety violations;
- complements the current law under which individuals can be prosecuted for gross negligence, manslaughter and health and safety offences, where there is direct evidence of their culpability. The Act builds on existing health and safety legislation so the new offence does not impose new regulations upon business.