no embargo - 1 December 2006 ( Back to news releases)
f.a.c.k says: 'Unless amended the Corporate Manslaughter Bill will betray families of those killed by work'
Members of fack will meet with Gerry Sutcliffe, the Home Office Minister on Monday 4th December to argue that serious amendments to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill are necessary to make company directors' liable for the death of their employees and others who may be killed by work activities.
Current law only allows a corporation to be prosecuted if there is sufficient evidence to prove that one of it's directors or senior managers committed manslaughter through gross negligence. As a consequence, only five corporate bodies have ever been convicted of manslaughter, all of them small organisations. The new Bill may make it easier to hold larger corporations to account but the 'senior management' test may still allow them to escape, and fack would prefer the offence to be based more broadly on 'management failures'.
Linda Whelan whose son Craig was killed in a fire in a chimney at Metal Box in Bolton said
"My son was murdered on 23rd May 2002/. Thousands of people have been killed by work since this government came to power, if they were killed by street muggers or terrorists then government and government agencies would be crying out. Are the lives of those killed at work by employers saving money, making more profit not as important? Isn't this another form of terrorism in our workforce? I want employers who put lives at risk to face corporate manslaughter charges."
fack is not seeking vengeance but justice and also accountability and fairness within the criminal justice system for those killed by work, similar to that accorded to people killed by other sorts of criminals than employers:
Dorothy and Douglas Wright whose son Mark was killed last year in an explosion at a recycling plant say:
"Like the victims of 7/7 our son was also killed by a bomb, not by a terrorist but by a negligent employer. Unlike the victims of 7/7 the government wants to keep the circumstances of his death quiet, no commemoration, the laying of flowers at the spot forbidden, the perpetrator walks free protected by the present useless laws while the family is treated with contempt. Why should our son's life be worth so much less than those lost on 7/7? Like us he was a law abiding citizen, going to work where he had the right to expect his employer to obey health and safety law and protect him. When that failed, we have a right to expect justice."
On Monday 4th December the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill is due to report back to the House of Commons. fack will make the Minister aware that the failure to allow for the imprisonment of individuals in companies found guilty of gross negligence will fail to improve safety standards.
fack also condemns the penalties in the Bill as utterly inadequate for the killing a person. fack wants to see penalties including imprisonment of individual directors who kill by gross negligence or recklessness plus a wider range of penalties for the employing organisations. These should include corporate probation, disqualification, adverse publicity orders and banning the organisations from bidding for public contracts. Rehabilitation orders that make companies responsible for specific improvements to their health and safety standards within a set timeframe or face severe penalties should be standard.
Most of all fack wants a Corporate Manslaughter law that provides real deterrence. Linzi Herbertson whose husband Andrew was killed when he fell from an inadequately constructed scaffold platform while dismantling a printing press in Oldham in January 1998 says:
"'We can't bring back the people we have lost to employers' gross negligence, but we can campaign to stop others dying utterly needless deaths. Any employer who kills a worker by gross negligence should go to jail. Everyone should be able to go to work and come home safely but this won't happen until all employers know that if they don't take workers health and safety seriously they will face severe consequences, not a small fine. The law on health and safety at work is criminal law: employers who break it are criminals and should be treated as such by the courts.'
Unless secondary liabilities for senior directors are introduced into the new Corporate Manslaughter/Homicide Bill, fack will campaign for further legislation that will make directors legally responsible for health and safety. This government promised 'joined up government' and fack expects the Home Office to work with the DWP to bring such legislation forward urgently to fill the legal loophole which will be left if the Corporate Manslaughter Bill fails to include a secondary offence for individuals. fack supports the Early Day Motion 359 to this effect.
It is not only workers who are at risk from employers who fail to comply with basic minimum health and safety standards, but members of the public.
Dawn and Paul Adams whose son Samuel was 6 years old when he was killed at the newly opened Trafford Centre in October 1998 say:
"On a family day out, when we should have been safe, our son was crushed when an 18 stone railing, which had been unsafely leant against a wall, hit him on the back of his head as he was standing in front of it. We know our health and safety law and work in the area of construction safety. The investigation process by the local authority horrified us as it totally failed to hold the employer accountable, sent the wrong message to other employers and has shaken our faith in health and safety law on top of the incredible heart break of seeing our son killed in such a terrible way that never should have happened."
Notes to editors
1. fack was launched in July 2006 with the support of the Hazards Campaign. We have spoken at several public meetings and conferences. We have become a recognized and respected group, gaining support from Centre for Corporate Accountability, STUC, TUC, trade unions, health and safety groups etc. We grow in numbers daily. fack leaflet and information available on website www.fack.org.uk
2. On 20th July the government presented the long awaited Corporate Manslaughter Bill which we hoped would address the difficulties of the current law but this has been a massive disappointment to the bereaved families and other campaigners.
3. Current law only allows companies to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter if an individual can be prosecuted and found guilty as the 'controlling mind' of the organisation, consequently only 12 employers have ever been convicted of manslaughter and only 5 of corporate manslaughter , none from big corporations. fack's main criticisms of the current Bill:
• it has a 'senior management ' test rather
than 'management failure'-
• that it does not allow the prosecution of
individual directors or
• the only penalty for Corporate Manslaughter/Homicide will be a fine
• the sudden decision to apply the Bill to Scotland
Founder members of fack who will talk to the press:
• Dorothy Wright who will be speaking at the
lobbying meeting about her
• Linda Whelan who son Craig was killed in a
fire in a chimney at Metal
• Linzi Herbertson whose husband Andrew was
killed when he fell from
• Dawn and Paul Adams whose son Samuel was only
6 years old when he was
• Michael and Lynne Hutin, 3 Knight Street,
Aberavan, Port Talbot,
• Penny Matthews, 19
Forester, Waterend, Stokeinchurch, High Wycombe, HP14