Lawyer welcomes Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill but calls for individual directors to be liable

Corporate homicide bill welcomed


The introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill in the Commons has been welcomed by David Urpeth a Partner based in the Sheffield office of law firm Irwin Mitchell and president of the Sheffield & District Law Society. The draft bill, which will be published today, will create a new offence of corporate manslaughter in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and of corporate homicide in Scotland.

This follows a number of calls over recent years after high-profile rail crashes such at Hatfield, in which Irwin Mitchell represented the families of the four people killed in the tragedy.

It is expected that the bill will ensure that companies are liable for any deaths due to a general breach of the duty of care by the firm. The new manslaughter offence would apply to corporations, including public bodies, and introduce unlimited fines if it were found that a death followed a serious failing by senior managers in the organisation of the corporation.

Mr Urpeth said Company directors need to realise that their actions have consequences on the companies for which they are responsible. You need only look at the fines imposed on Balfour Beatty in relation to the Hatfield rail disaster, to know that this offence will have serious implications for any company found to be liable for the deaths of individuals.

We are however disappointed that individual company directors will not be held personally liable under this bill. Personal liability would go even further in focusing the minds of all those responsible for how a company acts, into the security and safety of the people who use their services or products.

We want businesses to place safety at the top of their agenda. As well as fatalities which obviously cause devastating distress to relatives and family who are left behind, accidents can have severe long-term physical and psychological effects on employees and customers.

Such accidents also have an adverse effect on businesses both financially and in respect of their image. It is not about placing extra financial burdens on businesses, it is about preventing accidents, saving lives, reducing suffering and improving business performance.