Death (Actions of A Corporation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th June 1996.

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Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton 12:00 am, 17th June 1996

To ask the Attorney-General in how many cases he has initiated legal proceedings where the actions of a corporation have led to the death of an individual in the past 10 years. [31640]

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

A corporation that commits a criminal act leading to the death of an individual may be prosecuted for a range of possible offences, depending on the circumstances of the case. The possible offences include manslaughter. The Crown Prosecution Service does not record statistics for different categories of defendant, but, in the past three years, there have been two prosecutions for manslaughter against corporations. The first of those resulted in a conviction of the company itself and the second in the conviction of its managing agent.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Does that not show that the Attorney-General is soft on criminal companies? Has not the Law Commission said that there should be a new offence of corporate killing, which can be effectively enforced and have attached to it unlimited fines? Should there not also be prison sentences for dangerous bosses? Is it not about time that cowboy companies got the message that they will be held accountable for acts that are reckless, negligent and endanger lives?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Attorney General (Law Officers)

The first answer is no, it shows no such thing. If the hon. Gentleman has any examples of cases in which he thinks that there has been softness or in which there should have been a prosecution, no doubt he will let me know. I believe that such matters are vigorously prosecuted, and that those two cases show that the Crown Prosecution Service not only is prepared to prosecute corporations but, when it has done so, it has done so successfully.