The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 [1] (2007 c. 19) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that seeks to broaden the law on corporate manslaughter in the United Kingdom. The Act created a new offence respectively named corporate manslaughter, in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and corporate homicide in Scotland.

The Act received the royal assent on 26 July 2007 and came into force on 6 April 2008.[2]


[hide]*1 Background

[edit] BackgroundEdit

Main article: Corporate manslaughter (England and Wales)In English law, a corporation is a juristic person and is capable of committing, and being convicted of and sentenced for, a criminal offence.[3] However, some conceptual difficulty lies in fixing a corporation with the appropriate mens rea.[4] Before the Act, a corporation could only be convicted of manslaughter if a single employee of the company committed all the elements of the offence and was of sufficient seniority to be seen as embodying the "mind" of the corporation.[5][6] The practical consequence of this was that such convictions were rare and there was public discontent where it was perceived that culpable corporations had escaped censure and publishment.[4]

A Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Home Secretary John Reid on 20 July 2006.[7]

[edit] The ActEdit

[edit] The offenceEdit

An indictable offence[8] is committed if the way in which an organisation's activities are managed or organised:[9]

  • Causes a person's death; and

Amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased; — and the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.[10] Prosecution in England or Wales requires the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and in Northern Ireland, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland[11] and no natural person can be charged with aiding and abetting the offence.[12] The common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter, as it applies to corporations, is abolished.[13]

[edit] Organisations liableEdit

The offence applies to:[14]

[edit] Relevant duty of careEdit

A relevant duty of care is one of several duties of care owed by the organisation under the law of negligence and is a question of law for the judge.[17] Various government policy decisions;[18] policing,[19] military[20] and child protection[21] activities; and emergency responses[22] are excluded.

There are particular duties of care owed to persons in custody (s. 2(1)(d)) and, owing to the sensitivity and difficulty of such duties, implementation of this section was delayed. The Ministry of Justice published a report on progress towards implementation in July 2008.[23]

[edit] Gross breachEdit

A breach of a duty of care by an organisation is a gross breach if the alleged conduct amounts to a breach of that duty that falls far below what can reasonably be expected of the organisation in the circumstances.[24] The jury must consider whether the evidence shows that the organisation failed to comply with any health and safety legislation that relates to the alleged breach, and if so:[25]

  • How serious that failure was; and
  • How much of a risk of death it posed.

The jury may also:[25]

  • Consider the extent to which the evidence shows that there were attitudes, policies, systems or accepted practices within the organisation that were likely to have encouraged the failure, or to have produced tolerance of it; and
  • Have regard to any health and safety guidance that relates to the alleged breach.

[edit] Senior managementEdit

Senior management means the persons who play significant roles in:[26]

  • The making of decisions about how the whole or a substantial part of its activities are to be managed or organised; or
  • The actual managing or organising of the whole or a substantial part of those activities.

[edit] PenaltiesEdit

On conviction a corporation may be ordered to remedy any breach,[27] or to publicise its failures,[28] or be given an unlimited fine.[8] Sentencing guidelines are expected in autumn 2008[2] but on 15 November 2007, the Sentencing Guidelines Council issued a consultative document[29] recommending a starting point of a fine of 5% of company turnover for a first offence with a not guilty plea, rising to 10% of turnover.[30]

[edit] ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007: Commentary
  2. ^ a b "Understanding the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007" (pdf). Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  3. ^ Interpretation Act 1978, s. 5
  4. ^ a b Herring (2004) p.720
  5. ^ Tesco Supermarkets Ltd v. Nattrass [1972] AC 153
  6. ^ Attorney General's Reference (No. 2 of 1999) [2000] QB 796, CA
  7. ^ "History of passage through Parliament". Parliament of the UK. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  8. ^ a b S. 1(6)
  9. ^ S. 1(1)
  10. ^ S. 1(3)
  11. ^ S. 17
  12. ^ S. 18
  13. ^ S. 20
  14. ^ S. 1(2)
  15. ^ S. 14
  16. ^ Sch. 1, s. 11
  17. ^ S. 2
  18. ^ S.3
  19. ^ S. 4, s. 13
  20. ^ S. 5, s. 12
  21. ^ S. 6
  22. ^ S. 7
  23. ^ "Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act: custody provisions". Ministry of Justice. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
  24. ^ S. 1(4)(b)
  25. ^ a b S. 8
  26. ^ S. 1(4)(c)
  27. ^ S. 9
  28. ^ S. 10
  29. ^ "Consultation Paper on Sentencing for Corporate Manslaughter" (PDF). Sentencing Guidelines Council. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
  30. ^ "Companies face record corporate manslaughter fines". Solicitors' Journal. 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-12.

[edit] BibliographyEdit