The Corporate Manslaughter Act: Goals and Expectations?

Simon Daniels, Senior Lecturer in Maritime Law, Warsash Maritime Centre, UK

In this paper Dr Simon Daniels provides a critical assessment of the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 and why it is struggling to improve on the common law crime of manslaughter. The Act was created as a reaction to the capsizing of the P& O ferry Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987. At least 150 passengers and 38 members were killed. The Judge found “From top to bottom the body corporate was infected with the disease of sloppiness”, however a conviction of corporate manslaughter was not possible. Amongst the issues Dr Daniels identifies are the difficulties in establishing that senior management are implicated in the statutory crime and applying Health and Safety legislation tests for strict liability offences. The normative ethics of late twentieth century society were defining new goals in treating the growing mischief that organisations were avoiding accountability for the manslaughter of innocent people. The trouble was, that the common law was simply not meeting the expectations that had to underpin those goals, as a raft of cases, commencing with the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster, so graphically demonstrated. Parliament therefore had to achieve the goals by some bold new statutory provision - and it met the challenge with the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. But the Act has been in force for over half a decade, without achieving the goal of a single conviction of a significant company by a Jury to justify faith in its superiority over common law. This article examines the goals which define the structure of the 2007 Act, and analyses how the expectations placed on it have been met – or, rather, have not.

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United Kingdom Corporate Governance University January 2014 Vol. 7, No. 26, Winter 2014

Simon Daniels

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Dr Simon Daniels is a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales, with a background in private practice, representing clients in maritime, commercial and criminal litigation. He developed a career in alternative dispute resolution as a Qualified Dispute Resolver and Member of the Faculty of Mediation and ADR, founded by the Academy of Experts. In addition to mediation and arbitration, he continued to advise clients in a consultancy capacity, both in civil and criminal proceedings in the maritime sector. Simon has brought his professional background to the academic field, as Senior Lecturer in Maritime Law at Southampton Solent University, whose mission is to pursue inclusive and flexible forms of Higher Education that meet the needs of employers and prepare students to succeed in a fast-changing competitive world. He has written and presented a number of papers in subjects associated with marine law as well as in the field of corporate manslaughter. Simon has a particular interest in the field of the criminalisation of the Ship’s Master which harnesses his professional career to his background in the maritime industry . In 2012 he was awarded a PhD for his thesis: The Criminalisation of the Ship’s Master. A new approach for the new millennium. Simon has close ties with the United States and has carried out a substantial research project on Britain’s involvement in the American Civil War. In October 2005, Simon was admitted to Freedom of the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators. In 2006 he was made a Freeman By Redemption of the City of London.

Warsash Maritime Centre

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United Kingdom Corporate Governance University January 2014 Vol. 7, No. 26, Winter 2014