The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into effect in 2008 in response to a number of large-scale disasters in the 1990s and acts to impose criminal responsibility on organisations where gross negligence has led to the death of an employee. Although it is not part of health and safety law, corporate manslaughter is a criminal offence that refers to a crime committed by a company or organisation that leads to a work-related death. It introduced a new element in the corporate management of health and safety.

An organisation is guilty of a corporate manslaughter offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death, and if this amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. Organisations affected by the legislation include:



Most government departments and governmental agencies (including local authorities by implication)

Police forces

Partnerships, trade unions or employers’ associations that act as employers`

How do you prove corporate manslaughter?

In 2019/20 111 workers were killed at work in Great Britain which, despite being 38 fewer than the previous year, is still a significantly high number. Since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act was introduced into UK law, there have been fewer than 30 convictions.

It is rare that a company will be charged with corporate manslaughter because in order to be found guilty, all of the following needs to be proved:


The defendant is a qualifying organisation;

The organisation owed a relevant duty of care to the deceased;

There was a gross breach of that duty by the organisation;
the way in which its activities were managed or organised by its senior;

Management was a substantial element in the breach; and
the gross breach of the organisation’s duty caused or contributed to the death.`

A substantial element of any duty of care breach needs to be in the way activities were managed or organised. In other words, senior management must play a substantial role. However, in most, if not all workplace fatalities, very rarely is there a single factor that results in such a tragic outcome – fault is typically attributed to many different aspects.

Demonstrating that senior management failure was a substantial cause of any duty of care breach has been the biggest hurdle to overcome in making corporate manslaughter cases stick. Of the convictions that have been granted, majority of them have been smaller-sized companies where identifying a ‘senior manager’ connected to the company’s gross failure has been possible.

What is the maximum sentence for corporate manslaughter?

Conviction of corporate manslaughter carries an unlimited fine – it is stated that this fine must be enough to significantly punish the organisation, but should not be enough to put the organisation out of business or cause harm to other employees. The guidelines suggest that the fine should be 5% of the company’s annual turnover in the first instance and 10% for all subsequent incidents, meaning this can rise to several million pounds for large corporations.

It is also possible for prosecution costs to be awarded against the organisation and courts are able to impose ‘remedial orders’ on companies found guilty, forcing them to change their procedures to comply with health and safety laws. Additionally, since 2010, it has been possible to order companies to publicise the fact that they have been convicted.

It is important to note that by definition, corporate manslaughter charges can only be found against an organisation, although, individuals involved can be prosecuted for either gross negligence manslaughter or any related health and safety offences.

Where the factors needed to be found guilty of corporate manslaughter are not present, the organisation may instead be charged with negligence or gross negligence. “Gross negligence” is more severe and is determined if the breach is deemed to be significantly below what would be reasonably expected by the organisation. The level of negligence decided will be based on several factors:


How serious the failure was

How significant the risk was

The attitudes, policies and practices of the organisation that led to the failure

Any previous convictions of health and safety failure

Any health and safety guidance relating to the breach

The defendant is a qualifying organisation;



Text adapted from www.peoplesafe.co.uk 

Peoplesafe is an industry leading UK-based technology business centred around the safety of lone and at-risk workers across both public and private sectors. Protecting over 150,000 employees, our customer base includes more than 100 NHS trusts, 150 local authorities, 200 housing associations and hundreds of commercial organisations in sectors including utilities, facilities management, distribution and care.

Crown Prosecution Service:

CPS - https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/corporate-manslaughter

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The following information is copied from the CPS website in relation to the act:

The Organisation
Is the proposed defendant a qualifying organisation? 
Section 1(2) states that the offence applies to the following types of organisation:

a corporation;
a government department or other body listed in Schedule 1;
a police force; or
a partnership, or a trade union or employer’s association, that is also an employer.
Some of these are defined within the Act, others as a matter of general law.

‘Corporation’ is defined in section 25. It includes “any body corporate wherever incorporated”. This therefore includes limited companies, public limited companies (PLCs) and companies limited by guarantee, as well as limited liability partnerships (LLPs). Corporations sole (which are certain public offices held by individuals) are excluded. 

The term ‘corporation’ also includes public bodies which are incorporated by statute. Examples include NHS Foundation Trusts, county councils, district councils and (in Wales) unitary authorities. 

Government Departments 
Section 11(1) and Schedule 1 of the Act provide that specified government bodies can be prosecuted for Corporate Manslaughter. The statute provides an exception to the general rule that a crown body cannot be prosecuted for a criminal offence (see section 40 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947).

Schedule 1 lists the government bodies to which the offence applies. It includes the major departments of central government such as the Department of Health, Department for Education, DEFRA, Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, as well as the Welsh Government.

Section 16 contains provisions which identify the relevant body to prosecute where functions have been transferred from one public body to another since the date of the offence. 


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