Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 – A Guide

A detailed look at what the changes to this law will mean for businesses

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 – A Guide

Investigation and Prosecution

Key Information

  • It is for the police to investigate general criminal offences and investigations relating to corporate manslaughter/homicide will be led by them. However, it is important that the knowledge and expertise of the regulatory enforcing authorities (such as the Health and Safety Executive, the Office of Rail Regulation, Food Standards Agency and local authorities) are properly harnessed in any corporate manslaughter investigation, and protocols currently exist to facilitate this.
  • The Rail, Air and Marine Accident Investigation Branches will continue to be responsible for separate investigations to determine the cause of an incident and to issue reports.
  • Proceedings for the new offence will be the responsibility of the general prosecuting authorities: the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales, the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland and the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland. Proceedings will not therefore be brought by regulatory bodies.

Questions and Answers

What arrangements exist to ensure that the relevant agencies work together?

  • In England and Wales, the Work–Related Deaths Protocol, first published in 1998, has worked well to bring the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and regulatory authorities closer together when investigating and prosecuting work–related deaths.
  • Work has continued since then to improve this. A revised Protocol was published in 2003, and in 2004 in response to requests from investigators, the National Liaison Committee on the Work–Related Deaths Protocol published an “Investigators’ guide” to improve consistency in its application. The National Liaison Committee will continue to keep the Protocol under review. A copy of the Protocol can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive website.
  • Liaison in Northern Ireland is covered by a separate and broadly equivalent document “Investigation of Work–related Deaths: Northern Ireland agreement for liaison”.
  • In Scotland, a Protocol on Work–Related Deaths was published in October 2006 and has encouraged partner agencies to adopt a collaborative approach to the investigation of work–related deaths in Scotland.

What support will bereaved families receive?

England and Wales

  • The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime sets out what services victims can expect to receive in England and Wales from each of the criminal justice agencies. This will apply to corporate manslaughter investigations and prosecutions under the new Act, as it does to manslaughter cases at present.
  • The Code requires a dedicated family liaison police officer to be assigned to bereaved relatives in homicide cases and provides a right to information, including notification of court cases.
  • Family members are entitled to make a personal statement about how a crime has affected them, which will become part of the case papers. A pilot scheme (the Victim Advocate Scheme) operating in a number of Crown Courts allows families an opportunity to present their family impact statement orally to the court, or to have this done on their behalf. Additionally, from October this year, the Crown Prosecution Service’s Victim Focus Scheme will ensure that prosecutors meet with families in cases of this nature to explain the charging decision and possibility of the prosecution reading out in court the impact statement. Family Liaison Officers will be able to provide further details about where the Victim Advocate Scheme operates and advise on the Victim Focus Scheme.
  • The Health and Safety Executive does not provide a family liaison function. However, they and other regulatory bodies seek to follow the Code of Practice as far as possible when dealing with cases of work–related death that are not pursued by the police as manslaughter investigations. Further information about HSE’s policy towards victims can be found on the HSE website.

Scotland

  • In Scotland, the National Standards for Victims of Crime set out what standards victims can expect in their dealings with agencies and voluntary organisations in the criminal justice system.
  • It is the duty of the relevant Procurator Fiscal to enquire into all sudden, suspicious, accidental, unexpected and unexplained deaths. The Victim Information and Advice Service, which is part of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, provides a dedicated service that helps bereaved next of kin through the criminal justice process by keeping them informed of key developments and identifying other organisations that can offer them practical and emotional support.
  • A victim statement scheme has been piloted in some parts of Scotland, giving victims of certain crimes the right to make a written statement about the emotional, physical and financial impact the crime had on them. In cases where the victim had died, this right passed to their next of kin. Information about the current availability of this scheme can be obtained from the Victim Information and Advice Service.

Northern Ireland

  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland will assign specialist Family Liaison Officers to bereaved relatives in homicide cases. These officers will provide appropriate support and information about the investigation, and will ensure that families are treated appropriately, professionally and with respect for their needs.
  • It is the current policy and practice of the Public Prosecution Service to take account of the need to ensure that all relevant information on the effects of the crime on the victim is brought to the attention of the court and this has been included as a specific requirement in their new Code for Prosecutors.
  • In addition, it is normal practice, in cases involving death, for the court to seek a victim impact report, from the appropriate relative, to help inform sentencing. The Judge may also consider any correspondence provided by the next of kin or relatives of the deceased.

Where is further information available?

England and Wales

  • Guidance on the Victim Focus Scheme can be found on the Crown Prosecution Service website.
  • Victim Support provides free and confidential support. Local Victim Support Schemes are listed in the local phone book, or the Victim Supportline can be contacted on 0845 30 30 900.

Scotland

  • The National Standards for Victims of Crime as well as other useful information can be found on the Victims of Crime in Scotland website.
  • The Victim Support Scotland Helpline can be contacted on 0845 60 39 123.

Northern Ireland

  • Victim Support NI provides free and confidential support. Local Victim Support Offices are listed in the local telephone directory, or the Victim Supportline can be contacted on 0845 30 30 900.

Will compensation be available for bereaved families?

  • The families of victims will be able to seek compensation in the same way as at present. This will generally be via the civil courts, which are best placed to assess the detail of a claim for damages.

Can a private prosecution be brought for the new offence?

  • Individuals in England and Wales and Northern Ireland will be able to bring a private prosecution for the new offence, as is the case at present with gross negligence manslaughter. However, proceedings for the new offence must have the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions or, in Northern Ireland, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, the Director’s consent can be given by any Crown Prosecutor. Further information about consent should be obtained from the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • In Scotland, all prosecutions are initiated by the Procurator Fiscal.

Is the reform retrospective?

  • No. It is a general principle that criminal law does not apply retrospectively. The offence will only apply to fatalities caused by gross management failings that occur after the new law comes into force on 6 April 2008. Section 27(3) makes this explicit.

Will the existing law remain in force?

  • In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, it will no longer be possible to bring proceedings for gross negligence manslaughter against a company or other organisation to which the offence applies. That part of the common law is abolished – see section 20.
  • In Scotland, where the law on culpable homicide differs in certain respects from the law on gross negligence manslaughter, the common law will continue in force. It will be for the Procurator Fiscal to determine the appropriate charge in light of the circumstances of each individual case.

What about cases that occur before 6 April?

  • The Act includes a saving (section 27(4)) for cases that occur wholly or partly before the new offence comes into force. Prosecutions in those cases will therefore continue to be possible, even after 6 April, on the basis of the existing common law.
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