The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007—A 10-Year Review

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Abstract

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the commencement of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The Act was significant in that it introduced a specific offence for corporate killing in the UK for the first time. Such reform was generally welcomed, yet many academics and practitioners were critical of what they perceived to be the Act’s unnecessary complexity and questioned how effective it would be. The Grenfell Tower fire has recently stimulated renewed debate about corporate manslaughter and the ability of the law to hold organisations and individuals to account. To engage meaningfully in this discourse, it is imperative to review the Act’s performance in practice over the last 10 years. The author offers an original contribution to knowledge in this area through (i) fresh analysis of whether the criticism 10 years ago has proved to be well founded; (ii) scrutiny of the extent to which the Act has been successful in meeting its stated aims; (iii) critique of the judicial precepts in this area; and (iv) new insights into the future of corporate manslaughter including how the Act could be more efficacious. The statutory corporate manslaughter offence affords a superior basis of liability to the unwieldy common law offence that preceded it; there have been more prosecutions, higher average fines and its reach encompasses more than just micro/small companies. Conversely, the Act is simultaneously a disappointing compromise; fewer prosecutions than predicted, unjustifiable inconsistency in sentencing, a continued lack of individual accountability and a prosecutory preoccupation with a limited range of defendant. The introduction of new sentencing guidelines and recent case law developments, including the first fine measured in the millions of pounds, signal progress and have gone some way to address these inadequacies. Despite this, it is questionable whether the Act can rise to the challenge of securing convictions in relation to Grenfell Tower and similar factually complex tragedies. In order to fully capture and prevent the wide range of deaths within the Act’s remit, it is clear that prosecutors need enhanced training and a willingness to embrace a holistic reconceptualisation of ‘offender’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-75
JournalThe Journal of Criminal Law
Volume82
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

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