We provided an update on the progress through parliament of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill in our last Briefing. At that time, the Bill had undergone a number of important amendments since its original presentation to parliament in July last year and, crucially from the perspective of whether or not the Bill would make it onto the statute book, was subject to a further proposed amendment extending it to cover deaths in police and prison custody.
The extension of the Bill, proposed by the House of Lord, runs contrary to the Government's argument that the existing system of inquests and inquiries is the correct mechanism for dealing with deaths in custody, and its arrival has prompted suggestion in some quarters that the Bill will not now be passed in time for the end of this parliamentary session in late July. The significance of this is that if the Bill is not passed by the end of the session it will have "failed" and the entire process of presenting and debating the Bill will have to commence anew from scratch.
Faced with a 2 to 1 majority in the House of Lords in favour of the custody extension, the Government recently offered to compromise by allowing provision for the new law to be capable of amendment in the future to cover deaths in custody without the need for a new bill and by pledging to increase the investigatory powers of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. Whether or not those relatively minor concessions will be enough to secure the Bill's passage into law, only the next few weeks will tell.