Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Corporate Manslaughter Bill

The Corporate Manslaughter Bill ran into fresh difficulties earlier this week. The House of Lords amended the Bill so that it also applies to duties owed to "anyone held in custody". Thus the prison service and the police force would face more extensive potential liability. The amendment was proposed by Lord Ramsbotham in a powerful speech based on the twin principles of equality before the law and equal protection under the law.

The government is reported to have reacted angrily. The Home Secretary has even threatened to abandon the Bill altogether. Perhaps he needs to be reminded why the Bill was introduced in the first place. Four major prosecutions for corporate manslaughter have been brought in recent times, most recently in response to serious railway acccidents. They all failed. As the law now stands, many feel it would be impossible in practice to get a conviction. Companies are adept, for example, at delegating responsibility to lower level managers to avoid conviction. Whether the new Bill changes the legal landscape sufficiently is a vexed question. It is clear though that legislation is needed, if companies are ever to be held to account for corporate manslaughter.

1 comment:

sbs said...

thanks for the kind message about my blog, Tim. if I ever need a brief I'll know where to find you!