"To what extent does the legislation in relation to Corporate Manslaughter achieve its aims? Are companies and organisations any more accountable for their actions?”

Corporate Manslaughter is governed by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 which aims to make larger companies more accountable for their actions.

The legislation widened the test for liability, meaning that instead of identifying a management individual the prosecution must demonstrate that senior management as a whole allowed the activities that caused the death. This is the ‘senior management test’. This would allow simpler prosecution of larger companies, as complex management structures made identification of responsible individuals difficult.

The main aim of the legislation was to act as a deterrent for companies, ensuring that health and safety procedures were followed leading to a reduction in workplace fatalities or easier prosecutions.

At first glance it appears that these aims have been achieved. Companies should be aware that they must implement health and safety procedures or face prosecution. However, case law shows that the legislation is untested.

The first prosecution under the legislation was the case of R. v. Cotswold Geotechnical (Holdings) Limited which was hailed as a success, and is currently the only conviction under the statutory offence. However, the company was very small, meaning that the legislation had yet to be tested against the larger companies it was designed to help prosecute.

The most recent prosecution was against Lion Steel Limited, a relatively small company. A guilty plea led to a fine of £480,000 in instalments. Sentencing guidelines states that fines should rarely fall under £500,000 but as of yet no prosecution under the legislation has reached this figure.

To conclude, the legislation must be tested against larger companies to definitively show its aims have been achieved. The prosecution of small companies provides superficial convictions, failing to challenge the ‘senior management test’. Furthermore, for true accountability sentences must be in line with sentencing guidelines meaning higher financial penalties.

Contact our head of business crime, Michael Rainford, for further infromation michaelrainford@burtoncopeland.com or 0161 827 9500.