Corporate killing and corporate manslaughter

Across the globe, three times more people die as a result of their work than because of wars. In the UK thousands of people are still dying from exposure to asbestos. 30% of work related deaths occur due to accidents when vehicles are reversing.

Over 300 deaths in the UK are caused every year by accidents at work, sometimes because of massive health and safety failings at managerial and directorial level. But how many of those directors have gone to jail? Not one. Why not?

Below are links to 3 short videos by comedian Mark Thomas who has tried to find out why it has so far been impossible to hold those responsible for these deaths to account.

Mark Thomas Corporate Manslaughter 1

Mark Thomas Corporate Manslaughter 2

Mark Thomas Corporate Manslaughter 3

A law against corporate killing that could put a director in jail has yet to be passed. There is however a law (in force since 2008) making corporate manslaughter a crime for which a court can impose an unlimited fine on the company, even if no individual person within that company can be held criminally liable. The film below (which is not nearly as interesting as the others) does at least explain the circumstances under which a company might find itself prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

Legal information film explaining the crime of corporate manslaughter

The first prosecution under the new law was completed in February 2011, with the company involved, Cotswold Geotechnical being found guilty as charged. This small company, which only employed 8 people was fined £385,000. The judge indicated that he felt that if the company went out of business as a result of the fine, that this was not an inappropriate consequence of its health and safety failures.

In theory the fines could and should be much larger for bigger companies. However, there are some serious doubts as to whether it would be possible to bring a successful prosecution against larger companies because of their complex managerial structures, which would allow them to argue that there was no single controlling mind who might have avoided a death through properly complying with H&S law. It may well depend on a broader assessment of a company's health and saftey culture, such that a director could not claim to be unaware that there were serious H&S failings.

Daily Telegraph report on the first successful prosecution under new Corporate Manslaughter law

Firm fine shows up law flaw