Corporate and Gross Negligence Manslaughter

Overview

The common law offence of Gross Negligence Manslaughter invariably raises difficult questions of causation. This is made more complex by establishing the duty of care, the breach of that duty by act or omission and the link to a substantial cause of death.

For corporations and some entities, the common law offence of manslaughter by gross negligence has now been abolished by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Similar issues arise under the 2007 Act as at common law. A breach of a duty of care by an organisation is a “gross” breach if the conduct alleged to amount to a breach of that duty falls far below what can reasonably be expected of the organisation in the circumstances. The jury must consider whether the evidence shows that the organisation failed to comply with any health and safety legislation that relates to the alleged breach, and if so how serious that failure was and how much of a risk of death it posed. The jury may also consider the extent to which the evidence shows that there were attitudes, policies, systems or accepted practices within the organisation that were likely to have encouraged any such failure or to have produced tolerance of it.

These complex issues are regularly dealt with by the Crime team at St Philips. The trial preparation and assembly of the right evidence at an early stage are key to a successful defence or prosecution of these matters.