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How to Avoid Corporate Manslaughter

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How to Avoid Corporate Manslaughter

Corporate manslaughter refers to a criminal offence in English law that involves a death caused by a corporate entity.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide (CMCMA) Act came into effect on April 6th, 2008, and on the 1st February 2016, changes were made to the law regarding the sentencing of companies found guilty of corporate homicide, health and safety offences, and food safety and hygiene offences.

Objectives of Guideline Changes

There has always been a concern that larger entities do not receive adequate punishments when it came to sentencing, but these new changes to the law seek to remedy that. They also aim to provide more consistency when it comes to sentencing for offences committed by corporate entities.

Magistrates now have clearer guidelines for imposing fines that suit the severity of the crime, and these guidelines will also leave less scope for disputes after sentencing.

As an employer, it is essential you understand the laws surrounding corporate manslaughter and the effects these changes will have to the running of your company or organisation, and how you keep your employees safe.

Sentencing of Corporate Manslaughter

Before the establishment of the Corporate Manslaughter Act, a company could still face punishment for gross negligence manslaughter under common law, if it was responsible for the death of a person. However, with this use of common law, it was hard to identify a crime and gauge an organisation’s accountability.

When the 2007 act came into effect, it brought about a more comprehensive coverage of the offence.

Proving an Offence

In the circumstance that a company is being prosecuted for a corporate manslaughter offence, some elements had to be proven:

  1. The defendant must satisfy the classification for an organisation
  2. Proof that the organisation is responsible for the death of a person
  3. Proof that the organisation had a duty of care to the victim
  4. Proof that the organisation breached that duty of care

The Act also requires proof that the planning and supervision of certain activities by senior management played a big part in the breach of the duty of care.

Impact of the Changes

The changes to this legislation and the sentences available apply to everyone including individuals, corporations and small businesses, and to all cases, even if an offence took place before the 1st February.

The most significant change is that the turnover of the organisation will now be considered when the sentence and fine is calculated. Large companies can expect to pay up to £10 million, medium-sized entities up to £4 million and small business up to £1.6 million.

However, the company’s turnover will not be the only influencing factor. Fines will now also take into account:

  • The seriousness of the offence
  • The level of culpability for the company
  • The risk of harm, and the level exposure to that risk

There are categories that classify the severity of different offences and so the court will have to evaluate any mitigating circumstances and adjust fines accordingly.

The aim of the new guidelines is to ensure that when an entity is found guilty of an offence, the fine is substantial enough to set a precedence, deter other entities, protect the public and ensure adequate justice for victims.

Protecting Yourself

These changes reflect the changing attitude of the courts to businesses responsible for the death of their employers, and so it is crucial every company or organisation takes the necessary measures to protect their staff and prevent health and safety or corporate manslaughter offences.

The first way to protect your business is to evaluate all the health and safety risks that may pose a threat to your workers or the public. After identifying the possible hazards, take steps to eliminate or reduce these risks. In instances where a company has provided the necessary safety precautions after risk assessments, the court will take that into consideration in the case of sentencing.

Getting training for your staff is also an excellent way to prevent any potential dangers, so long as you opt for a competent and professional training organisation to work with. The team at Health and Safety Training Ltd are on hand to advise you on your training requirements, providing certified courses for you and your staff.


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