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January 5, 2011

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Ireland to get corporate manslaughter law?

The Irish government has announced plans to introduce a Bill on corporate manslaughter, which, if it becomes law, will have more ‘teeth’ than its counterpart in the UK.

The country’s minister for justice and law reform, Dermot Ahern, revealed on 29 December that the Bill introduces two new offences: corporate manslaughter, which will provide for criminal liability for corporate fatalities to be attributed to the corporate entity; and grossly negligent management causing death, under which criminal liability can be attributed to an individual serving in a senior managerial role within the entity.

Directors and senior managers found guilty of the latter could face a prison sentence of up to 12 years. In the UK, individuals cannot be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007; instead, they can be charged with gross negligence manslaughter, for which they can be imprisoned for up to three years, if convicted.

The Bill is based on proposals made five years ago in a report by Ireland’s Law Reform Commission, which highlighted the need for a law establishing corporate criminal liability for manslaughter, because “existing liability mechanisms in tort and health and safety legislation are insufficient to articulate the abhorrence of society regarding manslaughter”.

In addition to personal liability for “high managerial agents within a company” the Commission recommended that sentencing courts should have the power to impose unlimited fines on companies convicted of corporate manslaughter. Other sentencing options were also recommended, such as remedial, community-service and adverse-publicity orders – options that similarly exist under the UK Act.

Minister Ahern welcomed the government’s approval of the preparation of the Bill, saying: “Our laws must be robust in this area. While the criminal-law route should only be used where death has occurred as a result of flagrant abuse of the safety standards expected of companies and their managers, it is desirable that the criminal law would reflect the strength of societal disapproval for such events.”

However, it is unlikely that the Bill will complete its passage through the parliamentary system before the next General Election, which is due to be announced within the month.

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) said it would withhold comment until the Bill has been published and it has had time to consider it properly.

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13 years ago

There’s a mistake here-under English law the maximum sentence for manslaughter is life imprisonment but in practice judges would in the case of gross negligence manslaughter (which is not a separate offence) apply a sentence of about 3 years. The English Sentencing Council does not set any guidance for this, so judges have to rely in precedents from earlier cases.

13 years ago

Editor please note: ‘… they can be charged with gross negligence manslaughter, for which they can be imprisoned for up to three years, if convicted.’

The Tebay rail fatality resulted in the rail boss (Mark Connolly) and another prosecuted, each were found guilty of four counts of manslaughter. Connolly was jailed for nine years at Newcastle Crown Court. I believe Connolloy’s sentence was reduced to seven years on Apppeal.