HOME AFFAIRS & WORK & PENSIONS COMMITTEES
Session 2005-06 / PN No. 8
DRAFT CORPORATE MANSLAUGHTER LAW NEEDS MORE WORK TO ENSURE SUCCESSFUL PROSECUTION SAY COMMITTEES
The Home Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees today release a report urging the Government to tighten up its draft Corporate Manslaughter legislation. Without changes, relatives of victims may continue to be let down, say the Committees.
The Committees recommend that the Bill should be introduced before the end of this Parliamentary session, following eight years of discussion since the Government first announced its intention to legislate.
The existing common law has made it almost impossible to prosecute large companies for corporate manslaughter because of the difficulty of establishing individual responsibility for the offence. The Committees strongly criticize the proposed 'senior manager' test in the draft Bill, arguing that this will prove an obstacle to successful prosecution. Instead the Committees advise returning to the Law Commission's more general approach of "management failure". Building on this approach, the Committees propose that juries should be "required to consider whether there has been a serious breach of health and safety legislation and guidance or other relevant legislation" when assessing whether a management failure has occurred. The Committees also suggest that juries could "consider whether a corporate culture existed in the organisation that encouraged, tolerated or led to that management failure."
The Committees also point out that few directors have been successfully prosecuted for individual gross negligence manslaughter and all of these have been from small companies.. The Committees believe that individuals should be liable for a more serious offence than a breach of health and safety laws: if they have contributed to a company's management failing that has caused death. The Committees therefore want to see secondary liability for corporate manslaughter included in the draft Bill.
The Committees welcome the decision to remove Crown immunity, but argue that the exemptions provided in the draft Bill are too broad. In particular the exemption for deaths in police and prison custody cannot be justified.
Other recommendations from the Committees include:
- the offence should not be based on a civil law concept of duty of care in negligence;
- there should also be a more innovative range of sanctions devised, and provision for companies to be forced to pay compensation.
John Denham MP, Home Affairs Committee Chairman and Chairman for the joint inquiry, said:
"The reform of corporate manslaughter law is long overdue. The new Bill must be introduced this year, but it must take into account our recommendations if relatives of victims are not to feel cheated of justice in the future."
Notes for Editors:
1. For more information or to arrange bids for the Chairman, John Denham MP please call Jessica Bridges-Palmer on 0207 219 0724 or 07849 737 349.
2. The membership of the Committees is as follows:
Home Affairs Committee
Mr John Denham (Chairman) Labour, Southampton, Itchen
Mr Richard Benyon Conservative, Newbury
Mr Jeremy Browne Liberal Democrat, Taunton
Colin Burgon Labour, Elmet
Mr James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere
Mrs Ann Cryer Labour, Keighley
Mrs Janet Dean Labour, Burton
Nick Harvey Liberal Democrat, North Devon
Nick Herbert Conservative, Arundel & South Downs
Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green
Mr Shahid Malik Labour, Dewsbury
Gwyn Prosser Labour, Dover
Mr Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon
Mr David Winnick Labour, Walsall North
Work and Pensions Committee
Mr Terry Rooney (Chairman) Labour, Bradford North
Miss Anne Begg Labour, Aberdeen South
Harry Cohen Labour, Leyton and Wanstead
Mr Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow
Mrs Natascha Engel Labour, North East Derbyshire
Michael Jabez Foster Labour, Hastings and Rye
Justine Greening Conservative, Putney
Mrs Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood
Greg Mulholland Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West
John Penrose Conservative, Weston-Super-Mare
Jenny Willott Liberal Democrat, Cardiff Central
Telephone: 020 7219 3276
Fax: 020 7219 2744
Address: Home Affairs Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA
Clerk of the Sub-committees: Gosia McBride 020 7219 2839
Committee Legal Specialist: Manjit Gheera 020 7219 8368
Committee Assistant: Francene Graham 020 7219 8387
Committee Media Officer: Jessica Bridges-Palmer 020 7219 0724