Manslaughter Law "Needs Tightening"
(UK) MPs have called for a tightening up of the proposed new offence of corporate manslaughter, to ensure justice for relatives of workers killed due to employer negligence.
The draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill, is designed to make good a long-standing Labour commitment to punish companies whose failure to meet health and safety standards leads to the death of workers.
But a joint report by the House of Commons home affairs and work & pensions committees has warned that the Bill, as currently drafted, may let some big firms off the hook and create "perverse" incentives to treat health and safety less seriously.
The report revealed divisions within the cross-party committees, with Conservatives voting against a recommendation, backed by the Labour majority, for directors and managers to be prosecuted as individuals with a maximum penalty of 14 years' jail.
The draft Bill targets gross failings by the senior management of an organisation, rather than focusing on the wrong-doing of one individual at the top of the company.
But the report urged the Government to introduce an additional offence of "secondary liability for corporate manslaughter" to be used against individuals personally responsible for the organisation's failing.
It also strongly criticised the wording of a key clause in the Bill, which currently makes companies liable to prosecution only for deaths caused by the negligence of "senior managers".
The MPs argued that this created a "perverse incentive" for senior directors to delegate decisions on health and safety to more junior staff in order to avoid the danger of prosecution.
And it might mean large corporations escaping prosecution over a death at one of a number of factories or sites, while a smaller company with only one factory would find itself in court over an identical incident.
The report said that juries should instead be asked to decide whether "management failure" was to blame for the death.
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