Good NHS bosses can avoid falling foul of Corporate Manslaughter Act
30 September 2008
NHS Trusts can comply with the new Corporate Manslaughter Act by ensuring they have effective processes in place for managing health and safety at work, Maria Eagle the Justice Minister will tell NHS leaders today.
Maria Eagle will be speaking in London at a meeting of the NHS Confederation entitled, 'On the board on in the dock'. The event will be attended by 150 chairs and non-executive directors of NHS Trusts.
Maria Eagle will say:
'Every year more than 200 employees are killed in work-related incidents. The loss of a breadwinner, a mum, a dad, a spouse or a much-loved brother or sister can have a devastating emotional and financial impact.
'The Corporate Manslaughter Act is a ground-breaking piece of legislation that will ensure the victims of corporate failures get justice. It will be a very powerful deterrent to those organisations which do not take their health and safety responsibilities seriously.
'NHS organisations can comply with the law by ensuring they have effective processes in place for managing health and safety, that these are being implemented properly and reviewed regularly.
'I have every confidence that senior NHS staff are doing all they can to reduce risks, such as those from MRSA infections, and that successful prosecutions for corporate manslaughter will be very rare.'
The Act, which came into force in April, does not require employers to comply with new regulations but is based on existing duties of care.
Facts about the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007
Organisations covered by the Act include:
- NHS bodies and a wide range of non-departmental public bodies
- companies incorporated under companies legislation
- Crown bodies such as government departments
- police forces
- trade unions and employer's associations.
The Act is concerned with the corporate liability of the organisation itself and does not apply to individual directors, senior managers or other individuals. Nor is it possible to convict an individual of assisting or encouraging the offence. However, under existing laws individuals can already be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter and for health and safety offences.
An organisation is guilty of the new offence if the way in which its activities are organised, by its senior management, amount to a gross breach of the duty of care it owes to its employees, the public or other individual and those failings caused the person's death.
Penalties include an unlimited fine, publicity orders and remedial orders. Publicity orders have not been introduced yet pending guidance on their potential application from the Sentencing Guidelines Council, but they are likely to require the organisation to publicise the fact it has been convicted of the offence, the amount it has been fined and what it must do to rectify the problems uncovered. A remedial order will require it to take steps to correct any management failures that led to fatalities.
Under the previous law on corporate manslaughter a company could only be convicted of gross negligence manslaughter if a 'directing mind' in the organisation, such as a director, was also personally liable. The new Act removes the need to prove individual liability on the part of a director and instead focuses on the way in which an organisation's activities are managed collectively by senior management.
Notes to editors
- Maria Eagle's speech on the impact of the Corporate Manslaughter Act on the NHS.
- A short summary of the Act can be found in the guidance section of the site.
- The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act create the new statutory offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland of 'corporate manslaughter', and in Scotland of 'corporate homicide'. It came into effect on 6 April 2008.
- The NHS Confederation is the only independent membership body for over 95% of NHS organisations as well as a number of independent healthcare providers. It is a registered charity which aims to bring groups together to drive the national health agenda.
- For further information about the event please contact Niall Smith in the NHS Confederation press office on 020 7074 3304.
Public queries: 020 3334 3555
Press queries: 020 3334 3536
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