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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