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New Legislation Gives More Teeth to Corporate Manslaughter Law in UK - Essay Example

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New Legislation Gives More Teeth to Corporate Manslaughter Law in UK

This used to be the case in UK where organized labor and other concerned sectors had for many years railed against the growing number of deaths at work in which nobody gets the blame and receives the appropriate penalty.
In 2003, the country's Trade Union Congress (TUC) noted that 10,000 Britons die at work each year, or one for every single hour. The report said in 2002 alone, 249 workers and 384 innocent bystanders were killed in workplace incidents, with 4,000 more dying from asbestos-related diseases and 6,000 from other occupational illnesses9. Media likewise estimated that over 40,000 people in UK had been killed in commercially related circumstances between 1966 and 200610, but under the old common law of manslaughter, only 34 companies were prosecuted for homicide and only seven resulted in convictions.
The old laws such as the law of gross negligence treated work-related deaths like common crimes, which seldom gave justice to the victims because of the inherent difficulty of pinpointing blame in a corporate setting. Under this common-law crime of manslaughter, government solicitors prosecuted erring firms in many celebrated cases but failed. Among these cases were the 1990 capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry boat owned and operated by P & O Ferries (Dover), which killed 192 people, and the Southall rail crash in 1997, which caused seven deaths and injuries to 151 others. In both cases there were difficulties in finding one senior person in the company who knew enough to incriminate him6.

What was found galling in these disasters was that they were not caused by mere individual mistakes but were part of a systemic failure of safety management10, which cries for the prosecution of an entire organization. There was one case in which government successfully prosecuted a company for such failure in safety management, but the penalty was limited to a 4 million fine. In 1999, a Thames Trains service went through a red light at signal shortly after leaving Paddington station and collided with a First Great Western train at Ladbroke Grove in west London, killing 31 and bringing injuries to over 400 people. To demonstrate the difficulty of prosecuting anyone under the old common law, it took all of eight years before the case was resolved. In March 2007, the train operator Railtrack, which had been renamed Network Rail, was eventually fined 4 million for the breaches in health and safety that led to the disaster. This aftrer the court heard a "catalogue of failures to act" by Railtrack that led to the disaster.

The old laws somehow provide that companies may be prosecuted for a workplace death but the liability is heaped upon the individual responsible for it. The law at least seeks to identify the so-called "controlling mind" to be blamed for the accident but it should be proven beyond a shadow of doubt that this entity is guilty of gross negligence, which has proven to be a difficult task. What happens in most cases is that those who get singled out for the offense are often the front-line managers, not top management. Government solicitors themselves had admitted that "corporations are notoriously ...Show more


According to International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates, 2 million people worldwide die at work each year as a result of the failure of company managers to secure the workplace against hazardous and unsafe conditions. In industrial relations, this has come to be known as "corporate manslaughter," which occurs when a workingman's death is caused by gross negligence or failure of management to introduce and maintain basic safety standards…
Author : billybatz
New Legislation Gives More Teeth to Corporate Manslaughter Law in UK essay example
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