Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 – A Guide
A detailed look at what the changes to this law will mean for businesses
The 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act puts the law on corporate manslaughter (in Scotland, corporate culpable homicide) onto a new footing, setting out a new statutory offence. In summary, an organisation is guilty of the offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a death and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased. A substantial part of the breach must have been in the way activities were managed by senior management.
The offence addresses a key defect in the law that meant that, prior to the new offence, organisations could only be convicted of manslaughter (or culpable homicide in Scotland) if a “directing mind” at the top of the company (such as a director) was also personally liable. The reality of decision making in large organisations does not reflect this and the law therefore failed to provide proper accountability, and justice for victims. The new offence allows an organisation’s liability to be assessed on a wider basis, providing a more effective means of accountability for very serious management failings across the organisation. The new offence is intended to complement, not replace, other forms of accountability such as prosecutions under health and safety legislation and is specifically linked to existing health and safety requirements. The offence will support well managed organisations by targeting those which cut costs by taking unjustifiable risks with people’s safety.
This guidance applies throughout the UK. However, it is non–statutory and is for guidance. It should not be regarded as providing legal advice, which should be sought if there is any doubt as to the application or interpretation of the legislation.
The Act was given Royal Assent on 26 July and the majority of it will come into force on 6 April 2008. The Act applies across the UK.
Provisions relating to publicity orders will be commenced when supporting sentencing guidelines in England and Wales are available. The Sentencing Advisory Panel expects to publish a consultation paper on publicity orders (and the assessment of financial penalties) in November. A final guideline is expected to be ready by the autumn of 2008, paving the way for publicity orders to be brought into force at that point. The application of the offence to the management of custody will also commence at a later stage. The Government is working to implement that aspect of the legislation within 3 years of the offence itself, but has indicated that a period of up to 5 years might be necessary.
Copies of the Act
The Act, and Explanatory Notes, are published by The Stationery Office and available from the website of the Office of Public Sector Information.
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