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Corporate Manslaughter – publication of a guide

The Ministry of Justice has just published guidance for companies and partnerships on the corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

At Lawgistics we are seeking to keep you up to date with this legislation and how it will affect your business.

Much of the new guidance material we have covered before but there are some new helpful pointers to take note of.

It is important to remember that the new offence is committed if:-

a) the way the organisation manages or organises their activities causes a death

and

b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased.

The Act will come into operation on April 6, 2008.

Much has been said about Health and Safely legislation and clearly the various large scale disasters such as the Hatfield train crash were an impetus to get such legislation on the statute books.

Victims were rightly looking to the naming and shaming of failures of the corporate body and not simply those of a ‘Mr Bloggs’ within the hierarchy of management.

However, as well as duties of care in respect of systems of work and equipment used by employees, and the condition of workplaces, the duty also applies to products or services supplied to customers.

There was a famous old case in food standards law where a manufacturer supplied a bottle of ginger beer with a snail in it, which made a customer very ill.

The case was important in establishing who should be considered as being owed a ‘duty of care’. On a large corporate scale car manufacturers could potentially commit the offence if a car has a potentially lethal defect.

However, on a smaller scale what if you have a policy of selling ‘cheapies’ and un-roadworthy cars brought in as part exchange, and whilst your policy ‘at the top’ is to not let customers drive away in them, you in fact turn a blind eye to salesmen letting customers drive away with fatal consequences?

What if you supply cheap imported alloy wheels which look good but will potentially fail in use?

What if you allow someone to take a test drive without having a clear policy regarding age, instruction, insurance etc?

The guidelines make it clear that senior management cannot delegate away their controls to other people in the organisation to avoid the offence being committed.

The burden of proof on the prosecution will be that ‘but for’ the management failure the death would not have occurred.

Naturally the prosecution must also take account of intervening events, which have led to a death.

Thus the death of a person on a test drive may have arisen through reckless driving rather than the driver not having a licence or being under age.

Visit www.lawgistics.co.uk or call 0870 26 77 118 for more information.

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