Corporate manslaughter law is not the solution

Moves to introduce a crime of corporate killing will only serve to shift the relationship of organis...

Moves to introduce a crime of corporate killing will only serve to shift the relationship of organisations with regulators from one of co-operation to one of confrontation, a leading defence lawyer has warned.

Kevin McLoughlin, partner with law firm DLA, criticised proponents of the Corporate Killing Bill, expected to be finally included in the Queen's speech in November, as being guided by mere "legislative fashion", pointing out that "virtually strict liability" exists under the Health and Safety Act 1974, which still only sees a dozen successful prosecutions a year.

"Existing legislation is a token that is not being enforced, so we have to ask ourselves why we need new laws?" he asked at a seminar hosted last week by Royal & Sun Alliance on the issue of corporate responsibility.

He added: "We are too preoccupied with vengeance and have become obsessed with a deterrent-based culture. Instead, there should be real competitive advantage to be rung out of health and safety best practice. But there is no carrot in this legislative approach - no one saying this is how you will be rewarded. A noticeable difference in insurance premiums should be high on the list."

He warned companies and insurers that soaring legal costs would follow further legislation, creating "defensive management", with individuals of a company demanding separate legal representation and requiring lawyers be present for even simple statements.

Mr McLoughlin also warned of guarded interaction with the HSE and suggested businesses might adopt "molecular company structures", enabling firms to "shed the skin" of subsidiaries in the frame for prosecution.

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