Thompsons welcomes government report on corporate manslaughter20 December 2005
Bill too weak to impact on deaths at work
The UK's leading trades union solicitors have welcomed the report and recommendations from the Home Affairs and Work and Pension Committees on the Government's Draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill.
Thompsons, in their submission to the Committee and in the oral evidence given by Thompsons and various trades unions argued that the Bill was too weak in its present form to have a significant impact on deaths at work.
The Committee have now made recommendations which if implemented will significantly strengthen health and safety law and make a significant impact on the number of deaths at work. In addition the recommendations would if implemented restore justice to the families of those killed at work and in public disasters by holding companies and negligent individuals to account for their actions.
The Committee reminds the government of its promises to bring in this legislation and criticises the 8 year delay. It urges the introduction of an amended bill by the end of the present parliamentary session.
The main recommendations welcomed are:
- companies to be liable to prosecution for "management failure "as opposed to senior management failure
- individuals should be capable of prosecution where they have contributed to the death
- there should be a wider package of penalties. Guidelines should be introduced for sentencing. Penalties should reflect the gravity of the crime. The Committee recommend consideration of fines related to turnover
- the Government should introduce statutory safety responsibilities for directors
- there should be a contempt of court sanction for directors of companies who do not comply with Court remedial orders
- a wider range of penalties should be introduced
- pre-sentencing reports on companies to enable the court to consider the safety history of companies
- private prosecutions to be allowed
- no immunity for police and police authorities
- army exemption to be limited to combat operations.
Mick Antoniw of Thompsons solicitors, who gave evidence at the committee, said today:
"This is a hard hitting report which exposes the weaknesses of the proposed bill. The Committee has taken on board the majority of the recommendations made to it during the committee stage.
"In its present form the bill is weak and unlikely to have any significant impact on health and safety. The proposed amendments will strengthen the bill and give real teeth to the Courts to enable negligent companies to be prosecuted and held to account for deaths at work.
"It is important that the government listens carefully to the recommendations and implements them in full. Anything less will be a betrayal of those who have campaigned for this law for so long. An amended bill should now be introduced as a matter of urgency. 8 years is a long time to wait and the Committee's criticism of the delay so far is perfectly justified."
Killed after falling through skylight on roof
Peter and Anthea Dennis of Bridgend, South Wales, have been following the passage of the Bill with particular interest . Their son Daniel, died on the 8th April 2003 aged 17. He was in his first week's work and was sent onto a roof without any adequate training or safety supervision. He was killed when he fell through a skylight in the roof.
An inquest held that the death amounted to an unlawful killing. The case is currently under review by the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether to bring manslaughter charges under the existing law.
Peter Dennis said today:
"I hope the government listens to the recommendations and brings in strong laws to protect people like my son. It won't bring him back, but if it stops others being killed by negligent employers then I will feel that there is at last some justice in the world."
Peter and Anthea Dennis are available for interview.
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