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Safety - Corporate Killing

This page serves as information for company owners, directors, managers or supervisors and its purpose is to outline what is termed as “Corporate Killing”. The draft Involuntary Homicide Bill has been debated for some time and could become one of the most important developments in health and safety since the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

It may also be worth remembering that sections 2 and 3 of the HSWA are used by enforcing authorities to prosecute for management failure.

The draft Involuntary Homicide Bill (IHB) creates new offences of reckless killing, killing by gross carelessness and corporate killing - these are intended to replace the offence of manslaughter in cases where death is caused without the intention of causing death or serious injury.

Definitions:
Reckless Killing:
1. A person's conduct causes the death of another
2. A person is aware of a risk that their conduct will cause death or serious injury
3. It is unreasonable for a person to take risks when they have regard to the circumstances as they know, or believe them to be
4. The fault element is one of intent with knowledge of the risks and potential outcome
5. The offence is taken to trial in the Crown Court or High Court
6. The maximum sentence for the offence of reckless killing is that of life imprisonment

Killing by Gross Carelessness:
1. A person's conduct causes the death of another
2. The risk of the conduct causing death or serious injury would be obvious to a reasonable person in that position
3. It is unreasonable for a person to take risks when they have regard to the circumstances as they know, or believe them to be
4. The person was capable of appreciating the risk at the time of the incident BUT they did not do so
5. The conduct falls far below what can reasonably be expected in the circumstances
6. The offence is taken to trial in the Crown Court or High Court
7. The maximum sentence for the offence of reckless killing is 10 years imprisonment

Killing where the intention is to cause only Minor Injury:
1. A person commits killing where the offender intended to cause or recklessly cause minor injury
2. A person’s conduct causes the death of another. A person intended to cause some injury or was reckless as to whether some injury was caused
3. The offence is taken to trial in the Crown Court. The maximum sentence for the offence of killing where the intention is to cause only minor injury is 5 - 10 years imprisonment

Corporate Killing:
1. An individual in authority who is connected with the incident would be charged with the offence and not the company. The law is potentially seeking to make individuals responsible – particularly those supervising others at work.
2. A management failure is the cause of the person's death
3. That failure forms conduct that falls below what could reasonably be expected of the undertaking in the circumstances at the time
4. The offence is taken to trial in the Crown or High Court
5. The sentence for corporate killing is that of an unlimited fine
6. Other sanctions include remedial actions imposed by the court – including the disqualification of Directors

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