"Corporate criminal liability for manslaughter has finally been given statutory form and rightly so." Discuss.
Over the past 20 years, courts have been unable to successfully pierce the 'corporate veil'Ã¯Â¿Â½ and hold companies to account for high-profile transportation and corporate failures which resulted in numerous deaths.Ã¯Â¿Â½ The deficiencies under the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter to secure corporate convictions caused the law relating to corporate manslaughter to be riddled with controversy.Ã¯Â¿Â½ Despite the fact that academics and policy makers have increasingly clamoured for a major overhaul of this area of law,Ã¯Â¿Â½ it has taken two Law Commission papersÃ¯Â¿Â½ and a 'decade of wrangling, bartering, debate and delay',Ã¯Â¿Â½ for corporate criminal liability to finally have been given statutory form in the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The first part of this essay will analyse the common law and its shortcomings to demonstrate the inherent need for corporate criminal liability to be given statutory form.
The second part of this essay will evaluate to what extent the shortcomings under the common law have in fact been remedied under the Act and whether its ultimate outcome will be of value.
The Common Law and its Shortcomings
The traditional basis for any form of criminal liability requires proof of the criminal act having been committed ("actus reus") along with mental culpability ("mens rea").Ã¯Â¿Â½ This posed a conceptually difficult task when attempting to attribute criminal liability to a company due to its status as a "separate legal person" Ã¯Â¿Â½ under the SolomonÃ¯Â¿Â½ doctrine. As a legal construct, which can only act through those who are acting as agents of the company, a company cannot be held to have caused and much less be mentally culpable for any crime.Ã¯Â¿Â½ In an attempt to circumvent...