news release



for immediate use - 24 Julyl 2007( Back to news releases)

What about the workers?
Families of workers killed by employer negligence feel bitterly disapponted by Corporate Manslaughter Bill

Families of workers and members of the public killed by work activities (1) feel utterly betrayed by this government’s Corporate Manslaughter Bill. Ten years after promising to reform the law on corporate manslaughter to ensure all employing organisations would be held properly accountable in law for killing workers and others through gross negligence, the Bill the government has finally passed ‘is a dogs breakfast that will make very little difference and is likely to fail to convict a single employer who kills a worker’ says Fack spokesperson Dorothy Wright.

“This Bill falls far short of what is needed and what was promised by the government and we will fight on for laws making directors legally responsible for health and safety, for prison sentences for grossly negligent employers and for penalties fitting to the crime of killing someone at work that have a real deterrent effect.” she added.

The Bill eventually published in July last year was fatally flawed. It did not include legal duties for directors; had no provision for secondary liability for individual directors; the only penalty for killing a worker was to be an unlimited fine, no more than is possible under existing prosecutions for breaches of health and safety law. FACK along with trade unions and Hazards campaigners lobbied for amendments to the Bill (2) but to little avail.

‘Unless it prosecutes company directors (Prison sentence not fines or community service ) it is not worth having. "Corporate Manslaughter Bill" needs to mean what it says on the tin, not something that the law courts and lawyers can pull to shreds with hindsight and supposition. the present Government has kept it to the back of the drawer for 10 years, I think it is time to let our voice be heard.’ Said Fack member Mick Murphy

FACK feel that the arguments over the inclusion of deaths in custody have obscured the original aims of the Bill to increase the legal accountability of negligent employers, to ensure large corporations didn’t escape the law, and thereby to increase the deterrent effect on employers, to improve safety at work and actually reduce the number of workers killed.

‘My son predicted just weeks before his death that his employer was taking so many health and safety risks that someone would be killed one day. How can that be an 'accident'?

How many lives have to be sacrificed for business profit before politicians, the media and our fellow citizens wake up to the fact that these killings are crimes of manslaughter and must be treated as such?’ says Dorothy Wright

‘Yet again workers deaths are seen as inevitable; just accidents, completely unimportant, something we must just put up with in the business as usual world, and we are completely forgotten. Don’t workers lives count for anything to this government? ’ says Helen Le Bretton whose husband Dennis was killed in an incident in a quarry in Cornwall.

Hilda Palmer facilitator for FACK and national Hazards Campaign spokesperson says:

‘The passing of this Bill is a hollow victory. The arguments over whether deaths in custody should be included has obscured the real weaknesses of the Bill. In failing to make those responsible for the way workplaces operate accountable when their failures kill people, in the way as individuals are held accountable and punished with jail sentences, means there will be relatively little deterrent effect. This is very much a business as usual Bill and comes at a time when deaths at work are rising (3) when enforcement action is dropping and when the HSE is being decimated. The fight for justice and prevention of unnecessary deaths at work will have to go on.”

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Fack members who will speak to the press:

• Dorothy Wright: Tel: 01475 670442, Mobile 07818442083.

• Linda Whelan : Tel 01388 745967, Mobile 07919334793.

• Linzi Herbertson : Tel: 0161 681 8078 , Mobile 07790024379.

• Dawn and Paul Adams: Tel 0161 928 1307 Tel: Paul 0794-7252021.

• Michael and Lynne Hutin: Tel 01639 795469

• Helen LeBretton: Tel No: 01736 361002 Mobile 07773280697

• Mike and Bet Murphy: Mobile 07986 545109

• Karen Thompson: Tel: 0141 6330487

Notes to editors:

1. FACK was launched in July 2006 with the support of the Hazards Campaign. We have spoken at many public meetings and conferences, launched FACK at the STUC in Scotland, and recently at International Workers Memorial Day 28th April in Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Manchester and Oldham. .FACK leaflet and information available on website

2.. 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 19 employers have ever been convicted of manslaughter and sentence dot prison or suspended sentences, none from big corporations. FACK’s main criticisms of the current Bill:

• it has a ‘senior management test’ rather than ‘management failure’-legal opinion is that this may re-introduce the problems with the ‘controlling mind’ in existing legislation which prevents the prosecution of directors, especially of large employing organisations, and so could continue the present injustice of no large company ever being successfully prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

• that it does not allow the prosecution of individual directors or employers who have made decisions, or failed to take action, which has contributed to the death of a worker or member of the public;

• that there is no provision to make directors legally responsible for health and safety as they are for financial issues – the legal duty for health and safety is on the company or employing organisation;

• the only penalty for Corporate Manslaughter/Homicide will be a fine, similar to that for health and safety offences in the higher courts

• the decision to apply the Bill to Scotland (as Corporate Homicide) when it is a criminal justice issue which is devolved and Scottish legislation is likely to be more stringent

3. Death at work: Provisional HSE figures for 2006/07 show half year deaths running at 212 and deaths on construction for the whole year at 78 or higher, compared with 59 in 2005/06.

Most recent figures due out this week.