Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 makes it into UK legislation
Sheila Pantry OBE
The much debated and long awaited corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide finally made it into the UK law books on 26 July 2007. An impasse which saw the law threatened by a standoff between the Lords and MPs was overcome after MPs conceded the law should also cover prisoners killed in custody. Ministers had previously insisted that the prison service should be exempt, but the Lords refused to approve the law unless the exemption was removed.
The government agreed to introduce new protection for prisoners at some point after the act comes into force. Most of the laws provisions will now take effect in April 2008. Discussions are ongoing about when publicity orders will be introduced, but it will be some time after the other provisions.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber gave the law a qualified welcome. 'Even though unions wanted the bill to make individual directors personally liable for safety breaches and penalties against employers committing safety crimes to be tougher, we hope it will mean the start of a change in the safety culture at the top of the UK's companies and organisations,' he said. 'The catalogue of avoidable workplace deaths in recent years has highlighted in stark terms the need for a change of attitude over safety in UK boardrooms. To make a real difference, we now need to ensure that this law is accompanied by a new legal health and safety duty on directors and a requirement on companies to report annually on their workplace safety culture.'
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