By Gerry Bates
Under the Corporate Manslaughter Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, large dangerous organisations that kill will continue to escape prosecution. That is the legal opinion of lawyers working for the Centre for Corporate Accountability.
The new corporate manslaughter offence requires that a substantial element of the gross management failure within the organisation that caused the death must be that of senior managers. CCA lawyers Peter Thornton QC and Francis Fitzgibbon say:
“It takes no great foresight to see that in a large organisation, such as a train operating company, senior managers in the company will plausibly deny they are ‘senior management’ … as they do not have a ‘significant role’ in those areas of the company’s business that directly concern safety and would engage liability.”
The lawyers also argue that organisations will be able to escape prosecution if they “can delegate the function relating to safety to a level of management which is not ‘senior’.”
The CCA is calling for amendments to be made to extend the scope of the Bill including: tougher sentencing powers, the power to prevent companies from applying to public tenders, and to make sweeping changes to the safety systems within an organisation.
With the support of the Hazards Campaign, Families Against Corporate Killing was launched in July 2006 by a group of families of people killed at or by work. FACK is for all families who have suffered a work-related death to campaign for changes in the law and practices relating to investigation, prosecution and sentencing in cases of work-related deaths, and for more action to ensure employers comply with the law to prevent deaths at work and protect workers and members of the public.
• Relatives speak out:
“My son was murdered on 23 May 2002. Thousands of people have been killed by work since this government came to power, if they were killed by street muggers or terrorists then government and government agencies would be crying out. Are the lives of those killed at work by employers saving money, making more profit not as important? Isn’t this another form of terrorism in our workforce? I want employers who put lives at risk to face corporate manslaughter charges.”
Linda Whelan whose son Craig was killed in a fire in a chimney at Metal Box in Bolton
“Like the victims of 7/7 our son was also killed by a bomb, not by a terrorist but by a negligent employer. Unlike the victims of 7/7 the government wants to keep the circumstances of his death quiet, no commemoration, the laying of flowers at the spot forbidden, the perpetrator walks free protected by the present useless laws while the family is treated with contempt. Why should our son’s life be worth so much less than those lost on 7/7? Like us he was a law abiding citizen, going to work where he had the right to expect his employer to obey health and safety law and protect him. When that failed, we have a right to expect justice.”
Dorothy and Douglas Wright whose son Mark was killed in an explosion at a recycling plant
• Families Against Corporate Killing: FACK contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 c/o Hazards Campaign, Windrush Millennium Centre, 70 Alexandra Road, Manchester M16 7WD Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.fack.org.uk
Official HSE figures:
212 people killed at work last year but this is only the number of employees and self-employed; to that must be added 384 members of the public and about 1,000 people killed in work-related road traffic incidents, or at sea and others not counted. Therefore the real figure is about 1,600-1,700 killed in work-related incidents each year.
• Thousands killed by occupational illness.
• 70% of deaths and serious injuries due to management health and safety failures.
• Only 11 employers/directors EVER jailed for killing at work.