What is Corporate Manslaughter?

Written 21st February 2024 by Martha Odysseos

In the wake of the Lucy Letby convictions at the end of last year, Cheshire Constabulary launched a corporate manslaughter investigation into the Countess of Chester hospital where Letby worked in the neonatal unit and went on to kill seven babies and attempted to murder a further six.  

But what is corporate manslaughter? The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (CMCHA) came into force in 2008. In basic terms, if as a result of negligence or a breach of an organization’s duty of care, there is a death in the workplace, then the police often working alongside the Health and Safety Executive, will conduct an investigation into corporate manslaughter. 

Who can commit corporate manslaughter? 

The law applies to all corporate bodies operating in the United Kingdom, including public and private bodies. The law still applies regardless if the bodies were incorporated in the United Kingdom or overseas, as long as they operate in the United Kingdom.

Although individuals cannot commit this offence, proceedings for gross negligence manslaughter may be brought in relation to directors or managers who can be identified as having committed gross failings.  

Corporation Manslaughter – Section 1 of the CMCHA: 

Section 1 of the CMCHA ensures that companies and organisations can be held accountable for any deaths which occur as a result of serious management failings which result in a gross breach of a duty of care.  

The following must be proven in order for an organisation to be found guilty of Corporate Manslaughter: 

  • The way in which an organisation’s activities are managed or organized 
  • Causes a person’s death and 
  • Amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased (only if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach) 

Duty of care – Section 2(1) of the CMCHA: 

Section 2(1) of the CMCHA defines the relevant duties of care as any of the following duties owed by an organisation under the law of negligence: 

(a) a duty owed to its employees or to other persons working for the organisation or performing services for it; 

(b) a duty owed as occupier of premises; 

(c) a duty owed in connection with— 

  • (i) the supply by the organisation of goods or services (whether for consideration or not), 
  • (ii) the carrying on by the organisation of any construction or maintenance operations, 
  • (iii) the carrying on by the organisation of any other activity on a commercial basis, or 
  • (iv) the use or keeping by the organisation of any plant, vehicle or other thing; 

What sentence can an organisation receive if convicted of corporate manslaughter? 

If an organisation is convicted of corporate manslaughter, they will be fined.  

The Sentencing Guideline for corporate manslaughter states that the range of fines span from amounts of £180,000 – £20 million, however the fines that can be imposed are unlimited. The sentencing court will consider a number of factors including: 

  • (i) how foreseeable was serious injury? 
  • (ii) how far short of the appropriate standard did the offender fall? 
  • (iii) how widespread was the non-compliance? 
  • (iv) was there more than one death, or a high risk of further deaths or serious injury? 

Who investigates allegations of corporate manslaughter? 

Corporate Manslaughter allegations will tend to be investigated by a police force. However, the police will liaise with the Health and Safety Executive and any other regulatory body involved in the activities of the organisation. This means there may be multiple parallel investigations ongoing at one time.  

Olliers Solicitors – how can we help 

If your business is under investigation for corporate manslaughter, Olliers can provide specialist legal advice and assistance spanning across all simultaneous or parallel investigations.  We have an experienced team of criminal and regulatory lawyers who are on hand to guide you and your company through the process during what we know can be a very stressful time.

Martha Odysseos



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