More firms in the dock over deaths at work

THE number of new corporate manslaughter cases opened by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rose 40 per cent from 2011 to last year as more companies face accusations over work-related deaths.

Law firm Pinsent Masons, which compiled the figures, said there were 63 cases opened last year, compared to 45 in 2011.

Records only date from 2009 – two years after the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which allows the convictions of companies for deaths from management failures which constitute “a gross breach of a duty of care”.

There have only been three convictions since the law was put in place, but Pinsent Masons said this figure is “the tip of the iceberg” as cases take so long to prepare and take through court.

Specialist health and safety lawyer Simon Joyston-Bechal said: “High-risk industries and companies cannot be reassured by the current lack of convictions for corporate manslaughter.”

He added that companies should think twice about excessive cost-cutting that could affect employees’ health and safety.

“Companies that do this could find their cost-cutting decisions leave them liable for prosecution if there is an accident.”