Corporate Manslaughter

An overview of the issues concerning of the criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter or corporate manslaughter in the workplace.

This paper explores aspects of the criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter as applied to occurrences of workplace death and the legal response on this issue to date in the U.K. and Wales. It looks at how the standing legal precedent was set within the criminal code and how, in the year 2000, a Home Office Proposal introduced reforms on the Involuntary Manslaughter law in response to an array of work-related deaths. It examines how the reforms identified two additional definitions of what constitutes manslaughter and applies these definitions to the corporate arena.

The Cases
Interpreting the Law in Courts
The Call for Reform
Nuances of the Corporate Reforms
A Third Offense?
The Results of Reforms
“The Law Commission’s report, Legislating the Criminal Code: Involuntary Manslaughter (1996), expressly identified two major problems relating to the interpretation of conduct conducted in the process of involuntary manslaughter. In particular, the report cites difficulties including (a) cases involving conduct that falls only just short of murder, where the accused was aware of a risk of causing death or serious injury, although he did not intend to cause either; (b) cases where the accused is a professional person who makes a very serious mistake that results in death; and (c) cases where a relatively minor assault ends in death. This leads to problems in sentencing, including the fundamental problem that many cases currently amounting to unlawful act manslaughter involve only minor fault on the part of the defendant, and therefore is questionable as manslaughter at all. The Law Commission has established that, if it can be proven that a reasonable person in observation could not have foreseen the consequence of death, and the person being held liable neither intended nor foresaw the incident, it is wrong to assign liability for what is essentially an accident or misfortune.”