The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D. has received Government approval for the preparation of a Bill to make corporate bodies criminally liable for deaths they cause.

This will provide for the introduction of two new criminal offences; the offence of "Corporate Manslaughter" and a further offence of Grossly Negligent Management Causing Death. The former offence will provide for criminal liability for corporate fatalities to be attributed to the corporate entity with appropriately harsh monetary penalties, while the latter will provide for criminal liability to be attributed to an individual serving in a senior managerial role within the entity and could result in a prison sentence for a person found guilty of the offence. The proposals take into account the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Corporate Killing.

Minister Ahern welcomed the Government decision and said: "The Law Reform Commission has highlighted that there is a need for a law establishing corporate criminal liability for manslaughter. I am conscious that gaps on the Statute Book may leave a bereaved family with no option but to pursue an action in the civil courts. 

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."

29 December 2010

Note to Editors

1. The Law Reform Commission Report on Corporate Killing was launched in 2005. The Report recommended an offence of "corporate manslaughter" addressing corporate entities and a derivative offence of "grossly negligent management causing death" which could be addressed at high managerial agents within a company.

2. In the Commission's opinion existing liability mechanisms in tort and health and safety legislation are insufficient to articulate the abhorrence of society regarding manslaughter.

3. The proposed offences would be wide in scope encompassing not just culpable deaths in the workplace but all situations where a corporation or unincorporated body was responsible for a fatality including through the sale of dangerous products or the provision of a service, e.g. transport.

4. The Commission recommended that in the case of a conviction for corporate manslaughter, the sentencing court should have the power to impose an unlimited fine. The Commission also recommended other sentencing options, notably remedial orders, community service orders and adverse publicity orders as it is not possible to impose a custodial sentence on a corporate entity.

5. For the derivative offence of Grossly Negligent Management Causing Death, the Commission recommended that a high managerial agent of the corporate entity could, on conviction, face a prison sentence of 12 years and the option of an unlimited fine. The Commission also recommended that it should be open to the court to disqualify a convicted managerial agent from acting in a managerial capacity in an undertaking for such period as the court sees fit. In a draft bill contained in the Report this was given as a period not exceeding 15 years.