August 2007

What will be the impact of The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007?

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 will be implemented on 6th April 2008 and introduces a new offence that focuses on management failure at a senior level within an organisation. Currently companies can only be tried for gross negligence manslaughter. When the new legislation is implemented companies will no longer be subject to gross negligence manslaughter although individuals will still be subject to it.

Currently for a company to be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter there has to be sufficient evidence for the ‘directing mind' of that company to be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter, this is known as the ‘identification' principle. A person is a 'directing mind' of a company if they are sufficiently senior to be considered the embodiment of the company when acting in their corporate capacity. For a company to be guilty of gross negligence manslaughter the 'directing mind' must have been in gross breach of the duty of care owed to the victim. It is very difficult, particularly in large organisations, to identify the 'directing mind' and without sufficient evidence to prosecute an individual, the prosecution of the company therefore fails.

A company, to which the new legislation applies, is guilty of the new offence if the way in which any of its activities are managed or organised by its senior managers causes a person's death, and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

To apply the new legislation it will need to be determined whether the organisation owed a duty of care to the victim and whether the management failure amounted to a gross breach of this duty. For a jury to decide whether there has been a gross breach they need to determine whether the company failed to comply with any Health and Safety Legislation that relates to the alleged breach and if so how serious that failure was and how much of a risk of death it posed.

UK Training carefully monitors developments in the law and specialises in interpreting the impact that particular changes have on companies and their directors, company secretaries and senior managers. The impact that The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 will have on companies is covered in Company Law - A Company Director's Survival Guide.

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