It has been 10 years since the Corporate Manslaughter Act became law. Following this Act for the first time companies and organisations can be found guilty of an offence relating to causing a death as a result of serious failings.
Any fatality or serious injury at work is devastating, beyond the obvious effect on the families of those involved it will also have an impact on those within the company who have responsibility for keeping its staff safe.
After any death at work the police and the Health and Safety executive (HSE) will investigate the matter, consideration will be given for a prosecution for corporate manslaughter. This investigation may involve arresting members of staff including Directors and managers and interviewing them.
The Corporate Manslaughter Act sets out the basis on which a company can be convicted of this offence.
An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.
An organisation is guilty of an offence only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach referred to above.
The Act includes Factors for jury to help decide whether there was a gross breach of duty.
The jury must consider whether the evidence shows that the organisation failed to comply with any health and safety legislation that relates to the alleged breach, and if so how serious that failure was and how much of a risk of death it posed.
The jury may also consider the extent to which the evidence shows that there were attitudes, policies, systems or accepted practices within the organisation that were likely to have encouraged any such failure as is mentioned in subsection, or to have produced tolerance of it and to have regard to any health and safety guidance that relates to the alleged breach.
This means that the police and the HSE will look at the company to see whether their policies (or lack of them) may have contributed to the death. They will want to investigate not just the written policies but the culture of the company and how seriously it takes health and safety.
We understand that this is a very stressful time, as a director or manager you are not just dealing with the trauma that goes with the death of a member of your team but you are worrying about any potential investigation and or prosecution.
A company facing a conviction for corporate manslaughter faces unlimited fines, suggested to be measured in millions. Senior members of staff and directors also face prison sentences for breaches of health and safety regulations.
It is important that you get advice at the earliest stage of the process. We can guide you throughout, from the initial indication of an investigation through interview and trial if charged. It is important that a strategy is formulated at the outset, we will build a team of experts for you specific case. This will involve our in house team, specialist barristers, trained investigators and experts in your field of business.
For free initial advice call us on 01623 600645.