Article date: 2 July 2004
The Government is moving to close a legal loophole – sothat for the first time it will be possible for a company to beconvicted of killing by gross carelessness.
Under the new legislation due to be introduced in the nearfuture, a new offence of ‘corporate killing’ will becreated which, warns Norwich Union Risk Services, is likely to openthe legal floodgates.
In the past, a company could only be held responsible if anindividual such as a company director was found personally guiltyof involuntary manslaughter – often difficult to prove. Thenew category of ‘corporate killing’ will allow acompany to be sued without first needing to establish the guilt ofan individual.
Teresa Budworth, training and consultancy manager at NorwichUnion Risk Services, said: "It is usually extremely difficult topinpoint one individual who is the embodiment of the company andprove he or she is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, particularlywithin a large organisation.
"The new law makes it easier to establish guilt in relation to awhole company - and easier to bring legal proceedings against anorganisation.
"This loophole has allowed tragedies such as the Herald of FreeEnterprise disaster, the King’s Cross fire and the Claphamrail crash to escape legal action, even though a verdict ofunlawful killing was returned.
"Small businesses are equally likely to be brought to trial.
"We would recommend that all companies consult a competentperson to advise them on how to control the risks arising fromtheir activities. Risk assessment is a legal requirement and is akey part of any strategy to prevent accidents at work.
"Quite apart from the human costs, accidents have a major impacton a company’s bottom line. A policy of controlling riskswill usually make a company more competitive."
For further information, please contact:
Alison Owen at Staniforth on 0161 274 0100 or David Ross at NorwichUnion on 08703 66 68 65/07786 526350.
To read the Government’s proposals on "Reforming the lawon involuntary manslaughter," visit www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs/invmans.html.
Notes to editors
Norwich Union Insurance
- Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer with a market shareof around 14 per cent
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- one in five households
- one in seven motor vehicles
- more than 800,000 businesses
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