Corporate Manslaughter Bill ‘welcome – but could be improved’

02 August 2006

Last year, 581 people were killed at work. The Health and Safety Executive found 70% of these deaths were due to managers cutting corners. These are the stark statistics behind ASLEF’s campaign to see a meaningful ‘corporate manslaughter’ law passed in this country.

 

A major step has now been taken – a decade after it was promised – and the government has introduced a draft Bill aimed at ensuring that companies whose negligence leads to the death of employees or the public are brought to justice.

 

‘The idea was first put forward after the Southall rail crash in 1997, when the Swansea to Paddington express crashed into a freight train in west London, killing 32 people,’ says general secretary Keith Norman.

Seven charges of corporate manslaughter were brought against the train operator, Great Western Trains, but dropped when the judge overseeing the case said that under the law as it stood, prosecutors would have to prove one individual manager was responsible.

At least that aspect is being tackled, because under the new Bill – which is due to have its Second Reading in Parliament on 10 October - corporate manslaughter will relate to the overall management of an activity within an organisation.

The new bill also aims to rebalance the law in favour of victims by targeting those who are cutting costs and taking unjustified risks with people"s safety.

 

Keith Norman said the union welcomed the Bill, but feels it need to go further than is currently planned. ‘We want the government to put specific health and safety duties on individual directors and senior managers. This is the only way that we believe that rogue employers will deal with it seriously – if they have something to lose on a personal basis.

 

‘The Bill will undoubtedly make it easier to bring prosecutions against negligent and reckless companies – but not necessarily against guilty individuals.’

 

Current proposals could involve unlimited fines, but directors whose companies were found guilty of corporate manslaughter would only be disqualified from their posts in the future.

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