Although there is no current legislation in Ireland that creates the offence of Corporate Manslaughter, there is a Bill which has been coming down the track for over a decade. The issue has once again become a topical one both in U.K, in relation to the Grenfell tower block fire, and in Ireland in relation to the terrible condition of some rental properties in Dublin.
We have set out below 10 important points to note about this potential piece of legislation:
- There is currently no Irish legislation providing for the offence of corporate manslaughter. However, it is a matter that is coming down the track and so it is important to be aware of its broad implications for directors and senior managers.
- In the United Kingdom, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 created a new homicide offence a decade ago. This is a very tight piece of legislation which covers nearly all types of companies in the UK. Under this Act, a company can be convicted of Corporate Manslaughter and health and safety offences.
- In relation to the Grenfell tower block fire in London, the local authority and the tower management organisation have been identified as suspects in an investigation for corporate manslaughter.
- In Ireland, the Corporate Manslaughter Bill 2016 will create the indictable offence of “corporate manslaughter” by a company/undertaking. However, this Bill has been amended several times since 2005 and there appears to be a reluctance on the part of any government to enact the legislation.
- The Irish Bill will create the indictable office of “corporate manslaughter” by an undertaking/company if it causes the death of a person by gross negligence where: a. It owed a duty of care to the deceased person; b. It breached that duty of care in that it failed to meet the standard of care in subsection 3 of the Bill. The standard of care required is “to take all reasonable measures to anticipate and prevent risks to human life, having due regard to the size and circumstances of the undertaking”. c. The breach of duty of care involved a significant risk of death or serious personal harm, and d. That the breach caused the death of the person.
- The Bill will also bring in the indictable offence of “grossly negligent management causing death” by a high managerial agent of a company where a company is convicted of corporate manslaughter. This differs from the UK legislation as it provides personal criminal responsibility for agents of a company.
- The dissolution of an undertaking will not prevent a prosecution of high managerial agents of the company for grossly negligent management causing death.
- A company convicted under the proposed legislation is liable to a fine.
- A high managerial agent convicted of grossly negligent management causing death is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 years, or both. They can also be disqualified from acting in a management capacity for a period not exceeding 15 years.
- The principle of separate legal personality of a company can be disregarded by a court where an undertaking has dissolved and reformed and the court is satisfied that the purpose of that dissolution and re-formation was to avoid criminal liability under the legislation.
For further information please contact Naomi Gardiner.
10 November 2017