The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act came into force on 6 April 2008. The Act introduced a new criminal offence applying to incorporated bodies, partnerships, trade unions and many government bodies.
An organisation will be guilty of an offence if a fatality is caused by a gross breach of a relevant duty of care and where the way that the organisation’s activities were organised or managed by its senior managers was a substantial element of the breach.
Since April 2008 there have been only three convictions in the United Kingdom. The first case was against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd and it received a fine of £285,000. The second case was in Northern Ireland against JMW Farms Ltd. It received a fine of £187,500.
The most recent case was brought against Lion Steel Limited. The company pleaded guilty on 3 July and was sentenced on 20 July to a fine of £480,000. As the largest of the three companies it is unsurprising to see that it has received the highest fine to date. This fine is also much more closely aligned to the sentencing guidelines issued along with the act that suggested that an appropriate fine for the offence would rarely be less than £500,000.
As matters stand we still await the first Scottish prosecution for the offence and it will be interesting to see whether or not a prosecution will easily succeed and if so how the level of fine will compare.