Corporate killers can no longer hide behind the law09 March 2006
Negligent employers will no longer be able to hide behind the law
Negligent employers and individual directors involved with fatal accidents at work will no longer be able to hide behind the law, according to leading personal injury and trade union law firm Thompsons Solicitors. This is as a result of the Government’s response to the select committee scrutiny of the proposed corporate manslaughter bill, which will lead to a strengthening of the bill and stronger penalties for corporate killers.
In a powerful report, the select committee recommended a number of amendments to clarify the proposed new law of corporate manslaughter and to increase penalties including a longer term review of the individual liability of directors.
Mick Antoniw of Thompsons Solicitors – a firm which represents many families involved with fatal accidents at work - comments: "We welcome the proposals from the Government to clarify aspects of the bill to make it easier to prosecute companies that kill workers through gross negligence. It seems likely the bill will be significantly strengthened when it returns to parliament. In particular, the ongoing review of sentencing and the responsibility of individual directors make us optimistic that the new law can have a real impact on health and safety and reduce the number of serious accidents and deaths at work.”
“We believe that the days when negligent employers and individual directors could hide behind the law and not be held to account are coming to a timely end," concludes Antoniw.
The Government has made a number of concessions. The original bill proposed the offence only for gross breaches by senior managers rather than management failure. This is considered to be too narrow and would let many employers off the hook as it would be a difficult offence to prove with many employers blaming managers lower down the management chain. Importantly the Government has agreed to reconsider this along the lines of the original law commission proposal of management failure rather than senior management failure. It has also accepted a recommendation to re examine the test for gross management failure.
The Government also reemphasises the need to abolish crown immunity and that the act should also apply to the police. Importantly, the Government has recognised the need for effective penalties. Companies in breach of remedial orders (to rectify a breach) will go back to the crown court where unlimited penalties can be imposed. In addition there is to be a review of sentencing guidelines and a review of the individual liability of directors.
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