Introduced in 2008, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (CMCHA) is designed to set out what happens when ‘corporate manslaughter’ is committed. This crime is committed if the death of a human being is due to serious management failures, and places the entity as accountable for the death rather than any particular individual.
The Act applies to companies, partnerships, police forces and some government departments, and works in conjunction with other accountability laws, such as health and safety legislation and manslaughter by gross negligence. Over the last few years, the Act has hit the headlines, highlighting the importance of a strong health and safety policy and communication between board directors, senior management and employees.
The Act places an emphasis on the breach of a duty of care, and culpability rests on how policy or decisions were implemented by an organisation’s governing body or committee. In the case of large companies, the policy is usually agreed at board level and then left in the hands of senior management, making this law a particularly challenging obstacle for those in board positions. It is, therefore, essential to carry out preventative measures to reduce the risks to your employees.
Under the Act, there is no individual liability for aiding or abetting corporate manslaughter. Instead, prosecution for the corporate manslaughter or homicide is against the corporate body. However, the liability of individuals remains unaffected by health and safety and other criminal legislation, as has been demonstrated by many high profile cases.
If there is a breach of the Act, the entities caught by the Act are required to remedy any breach, given an unlimited fine or ordered to publicise their failures, and on occasion a mixture of the three.
Since its inception in 2008, the CMCHA has featured heavily in corporate criminal cases, including the corporate manslaughter case against Baldwins Crane Hire last year, in which the organisation was ordered to pay £900,000 after the death of an employee in a quarry collision.
Another case receiving high-profile media attention was that of Linley Developments, which was fined £200,000 for corporate manslaughter in 2015. Not only did the senior management team fail to carry out a risk assessment, but it also failed to install the correct supports to prevent a wall from falling, resulting in the death of employee Gareth Jones. In addition to a fine, the managing director and project manager were given suspended prison sentences, and various other individuals received fines and convictions. This case was damaging to the individuals’ careers, as well as to the finances and reputation of their employer. In addition to the case receiving widespread media coverage, Linley Developments was ordered to issue an advert in the trade press to detail its prosecution.
Regularly reviewing your organisation’s health and safety policy, carrying out appropriate risk assessments and training staff suitably at all levels – including those in senior management roles – will help to ensure the safety of your workforce and in turn, prevent against such a case arising within your company.