News 07 Apr, 2008

UK: Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act

On 6 April 2008 The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 came into force. The Act will apply to death caused in the UK or its territorial waters or on board any UK vessel.
The Act abolishes the common law offence of corporate manslaughter by which a person who is the directing mind of an organisation is criminally liable for manslaughter caused by the failings of the organisation, even though he or she was not personally guilty of any failing.  The offence of manslaughter by the reckless conduct of an individual has not been abolished.

In summary,  the new Act allows an organisation, including a company or a partnership,  to be convicted of manslaughter if the manner in which its activities are managed or organised causes death and is a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by that organisation to the deceased.  A gross breach of the relevant duty of care equates to gross negligence, which is a concept not well established under English law.  Consequently, the Courts may initially struggle to define this aspect of the offence.

The penalty on conviction is an unlimited fine and indications are that the amount may range between 2.5 and 10% of an organisation’s global turnover. The Courts also have power to make remedial orders against an organisation and to order that the details of the offence should be publicised.

A conviction under the Act is likely to be evidence of conduct by the Member that may prevent any recovery under Club cover in connection with the death because the conduct was imprudent, unsafe, unduly hazardous or improper.

Cover under the Club’s Rules is not provided in respect of criminal proceedings against the Member (as opposed to the Member’s employees and others).  However, the Club’s   Board may decide that liabilities costs and expenses arising in respect of corporate manslaughter can be covered on a discretionary basis under the Omnibus Rule, although each case would be considered on its merits.

The creation of this new offence underlines once again the exposure to criminal liability that Members face if their operating standards fall below levels required by law.

If further information about the effect of the Act is required, please do not hesitate to contact the Managers.