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40% rise in corporate manslaughter cases

Cases of corporate manslaughter investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have risen by 40% from the previous year.

Since records began in 2009, the CPS has opened 141 corporate manslaughter cases, with 56 currently being investigated with a view to prosecution.

According to new figures, 63 cases were opened in 2012, up from 45 in 2011 and 26 in 2010.

In April 2008 the law was changed which meant that large and medium-sized companies could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter if deaths were proven to be as a result of negligence by an organisations’ management.

While there have only been three successful prosecutions under the new rules, it is understood that the CPS is ramping up its pursuit of companies under corporate manslaughter charges.

The first successful prosecution occurred in 2011 and related to a death in 2008, with the remaining prosecutions in 2012 relating to deaths in 2010 and 2008 respectively.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act created an offence whereby the Crown will rule on whether the way in which the organisation’s activities were managed or organised contributed to a person’s death, and crucially whether there was a “gross breach” in the duty of care by the organisation to the victim. How the activities are organised or managed by senior management must be a substantial element of this “gross breach.”

Previously companies and public bodies could only be found guilty of an offence if a senior figure, acting as an organisation’s “controlling mind”, was also guilty.