We have updated the note to reflect publication of the above by the Sentencing Guidelines Council on 10 February 2010.
This quick guide provides a brief summary of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
For a more detailed analysis of the Act, see Practice note, Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
This is one of a series of quick guides, see Quick guides.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (Act) came into force on 6 April 2008 and applies to the whole of the UK. Directors should be aware of its provisions because an organisation may incur significant penalties if convicted of corporate manslaughter under the Act. In particular, these penalties include:
The Act does not apply retrospectively.
The new offence is known as corporate manslaughter in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and as corporate homicide in Scotland.
The new offence replaces the common law offence of manslaughter by gross negligence for companies. An organisation will be guilty of the new offence if all of the following apply:
The Act sets out certain factors that a jury must take into account when deciding whether an organisation is guilty of the new offence, namely:
It also sets out a non-exhaustive list of factors that a jury may take into account, including any health and safety guidance relating to the breach and whether there were any attitudes, policies, systems or accepted practices in the organisation that were likely to have encouraged a management failure.
The types of duty of care covered by the new offence include a duty owed by an organisation to employees or other persons working for the organisation, a duty owed as an occupier of premises and a duty owed in connection with:
In most cases, the duty of care is likely to arise in a health and safety context. However, it might be possible to prove a duty of care arises in a different context (for example, under environmental law).
Such organisations include:
The new offence does not apply to individuals, such as company directors or managers. However, the common law offence of manslaughter by gross negligence continues to apply to individuals.
If a company is prosecuted under the new offence, the company (and/or its company directors and managers) could still be prosecuted for any breaches of health and safety or other laws.
An organisation committing the new offence will be subject to a trial in the Crown Court by judge and jury. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine as determined in accordance with the Sentencing Guidelines Council: Corporate Manslaughter and Health and Safety Offences Causing Death: Definitive Guideline (www.practicallaw.com/7-501-4437). In addition, the court may make:
For details of the first prosecution under the Act, see Practice note, Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007: Prosecutions (www.practicallaw.com/7-376-0094).
Particular issues to watch out for include: