Criminal liability for corporations that kill : proposals for reform
In 1996 the Law Commission published Report No.237 "Criminal Law: Involuntary Manslaughter - A Consultation Paper ". In that document they set out their proposals for a radical new offence of "corporate killing". Seven years later and the Government is still no closer to enacting a statutory offence of corporate manslaughter than it was then despite the current Labour Government making promises to this effect in its 1997 election manifesto. Since the Law Commission Report was published we have seen Great Western Trains prosecuted unsuccessfully for the Southall train crash in 1997. We have also heard recently that Network Rail and Balfour Beatty will be prosecuted following deaths caused by a train derailment in October 2000. Yet this prosecution also seems doomed to failure so long as the common law maintains the "doctrine of identification" as the basis of liability for corporate manslaughter. Throughout the course of this thesis we will be examining the law governing corporate manslaughter in England and Wales. We will examine the way that the doctrine of identification has evolved in the context of the historical development of corporate criminal liability. We will also witness the way in which the doctrine of identification has been utilized by the courts in corporate manslaughter prosecutions and the problems this causes. Having concluded that the current common law position is unsatisfactory we will proceed to examine alternative approaches to the liability problem. This includes a treatment of sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974, and the legal position in other jurisdictions. Before drawing some conclusions on this matter we will also look at the interesting problem of corporate punishment.