In the first case of its kind, a company in the United Kingdom has been fined Stg£385,000 for corporate manslaughter. In that case an unsupervised employee died while taking soil samples from the bottom of a pit on a building site. The company was in breach of health and safety regulations governing excavations and the depth of pits. It was prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
The company in the UK case was a small employer with only eight employees and the size of the fine is quite significant for such a small employer. There was no custodial sentence imposed upon any of the directors of the company.
The Law Reform Commission in Ireland highlighted the need for such a law back in 2006. Just before the fall of the last government the then Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, advised that the government had approved the preparation of a Corporate Manslaughter Bill. It is likely that the new Minister for Justice Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, will take the matter up in the coming year.
The Law Reform Commission has already prepared a draft bill which provides for the offense of “corporate manslaughter” and “grossly negligent management causing death”. The former will attribute criminal liability on the corporate entity and the latter on a director or senior manager of the entity who could face prison terms of up to 12 years. The Law Reform Commission recommended that the Court shall have the power to impose unlimited fines on companies convicted of corporate manslaughter.
One to watch.
Contributed by Richard Breen.