July 2007

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill to receive Royal Assent

The House of Lords and the House of Commons have finally reached a compromise over the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill. The Lords were steadfast in their insistence that amendments be made to the Bill, which has been designed to ensure that organisations can be successfully prosecuted for manslaughter if people are killed as a result of an organisational system failure. The Lords wished to ensure that all people held in custody are covered by the provisions of the Bill.

After a protracted period of 'ping-pong', where the legislation has been bounced between both chambers, the House of Commons has finally conceded the point and the new law will apply to people held in custody. Although enactment of this part of the Bill will be delayed for three years, the compromise means that The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill will finally receive Royal Assent before the end of the parliamentary session on Friday.

Many people argue that current provisions in the law mean that where there are deaths in custody, there is a complete lack of accountability. Existing mechanisms, such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Prison and Probations Ombudsman and the inquest system, are not able to determine liability. There have been 10 inquests into deaths in custody since 1990, and despite the unlawful killing verdicts returned by the juries, none of them have resulted in a successful prosecution.

Lord RamsbothamThe independent peer and former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham, is of the view that had there been a risk that a charge of corporate manslaughter would have been brought, managers at all levels would have taken a great deal more care over the detailed exercise of their responsibilities. Under current laws when it is ruled that poor organisational arrangements are to blame rather than individual misconduct there will not be a prosecution for manslaughter. The Bill addresses this gap in the justice system.

This new legislation will have a significant impact on all companies. Now is the time to ensure that your organisational structures and systems are designed to prevent foreseeable accidents which could result in the death of a person. The seminar, A Company Director's Survival Guide, addresses the ramifications of this new legislation on all private and public companies.

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