Corporate Manslaughter Cases Up By 40% In A Year
The number of new corporate manslaughter cases opened by the Crown Prosecution Services has spiked by 40% in a year, according to newly released figures.
The research shows there has been an increase in charges from 45 in 2011 to 63 in 2012.
In total 141 cases have been opened since 2009, with 56 prosecutions currently ongoing, according to law firm Pinsent Masons.
But despite the rise in numbers, there have only been three convictions since 2008.
It said the figures hinted that the scale of potential corporate manslaughter cases may be much higher.
Since the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 was introduced the following year, large and medium-sized companies can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter for deaths arising from management failures which constituted a gross breach of a duty of care.
Pinsent Masons' Simon Joyston-Bechal said: "High-risk industries and companies cannot be reassured by the current lack of convictions for corporate manslaughter.
"The three convictions so far are just the tip of an iceberg."
He added: "Corporate manslaughter cases are very complex and can take a long time to come to trial. We can now see from these figures that there are a rapidly growing number of cases in the pipeline."
According to the study, the first corporate manslaughter conviction in 2011 related to a 2008 fatality and the second conviction in 2012 related to a 2010 fatality while the third conviction in 2012 related to a fatality four years prior, in 2008.
The CPS, however, has placed caveats on the findings due to the classification procedure, date of possible offences or withdrawal of charges.
CPS deputy head of special crime Malcolm McHaffie said: "The number of potential corporate manslaughter referrals is increasing following introduction of the Act.
These cases are handled by specialist lawyers and so far we have started proceedings against five organisations with the new offence.
Two of those prosecutions concluded in convictions and three remain live. These are, however, complex cases which can take some time for us to consider and may result in prosecutions for offences other than under the Corporate Manslaughter Act."
With firms trying to reduce overhead they may be tempted to cut spending on health and safety, according to researchers.
Mr Joyston-Bechal warned: "Cutting corners on safety in order to save money is probably the most serious aggravating feature of an offence.
"All businesses need to have robust health and safety procedures in place."