Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide

What constitutes ‘Corporate Manslaughter’?

Corporate manslaughter is the unintended yet preventable death of an employee in the workplace. Where this can be proven, it is the employing corporation, not an individual or subcontractor that will be found guilty of the offence.

Seriousness of the offence

Measuring the seriousness of the offence of corporate manslaughter in court is based predominantly on 3 factors:

  1. How foreseeable the incident was (therefore how preventable the incident was)

  2. How common an incident of that nature is in the corporation, and

  3. How high in the organisation did the responsibility for the offending breach go.

Other factors that go against the accused company, aggravating the seriousness of the offence therefore attracting a larger fine are: The number of incidences of deaths and serious injuries caused in the workplace, ignoring previous warnings, and the failure to comply with relevant licences or to obtain them and forsaking safety in order to cut costs

Legal penalty for Corporate Manslaughter

Due to the nature of the offence being one of omission rather than commission, and possibly of multiple parties rather than one negligent person, it is the offending company found guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter. And when found guilty, a fine is imposed. The amount of the fine imposed can run into millions of pounds, and as outlined by the Sentencing Guidelines Council it was considered that it was to reflect the profit and turnover of the offending company to suitably and relatively punish. However due to operational issues (diverse financial structures of organisations in private, public and third sectors) this was discarded, with the fine to solely and significantly reflect seriousness of the offence.

However the amount of the fine imposed would very rarely be below £500,000.

Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, companies found guilty of the offence of Corporate Manslaughter, not only face a fine, but also have to, in virtually all incidences have to make a public statement of their conviction and fine. Normally such a statement will be required to be present on the company website.

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

Under this statute, it is outlined that it is an offence if the death of an employee is deemed due to the ‘gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased’ and it is the negligence of a company that makes the manslaughter ‘corporate’.

According to the act, the jury must decide whether there was a gross breach of the duty of care owed by the employer to the deceased, how serious the failure of the company to comply with health and safety legislation was and how high the perceived risk of death was. Taken into consideration also would be evidence to support or contravene that the offending company may have policies or associated attitudes that would facilitate an occurrence of negligence that would constitute a breach of a duty of care. Also adherence to health and safety policy is taken into account.