A third UK company, Lion Steel Ltd, has been convicted of corporate manslaughter under the UK Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, for the death of an employee who fell more than 40ft from the factory’s roof, onto which he had gone to repair a leak.
Lion Steel Ltd had pleaded guilty to the corporate manslaughter charge on the condition that all charges against the directors would be dropped. Taking into account the seriousness of the breach, the company’s financial position, and the guilty plea, the company was fined £480,000, and £84,000 for costs.
There is no Irish equivalent to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Although a Private Member's Bill was introduced to the Seanad in December 2011, this has not progressed, and there is currently no Government Bill or Draft Scheme.
In 2005, the Irish Law Reform Commission reported on the need for criminal liability in the area of corporate manslaughter. In December 2010, the Government approved the drafting of a General Scheme of a Criminal Justice (Corporate Manslaughter) Bill, and an interdepartmental working group was established to conduct a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) of the proposals. Minister Hayes indicated in a recent Dail Debate, on 25 April 2012, that the working group is expected to complete the required RIA by the end of this year.
Currently the Health & Safety Authority (the HSA), under the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005, has responsibility for prosecuting those in charge of the workplace for breaches of the legislation. The maximum penalties under the 2005 Act are €3 million and/or two years’ imprisonment. Under the 2005 Act, managers and directors can be made liable and proceeded against directly for failures. Fines in fatal accident prosecutions taken by the HSA, under the SHWW Act 2005, have ranged from €600 to €350,000. This disparity has led to calls for greater guidance in sentencing for judges.
To view our previous article on corporate manslaughter prosecutions in R v Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Limited and R v JMW Farm Limited, please click here.