Criminalisation of senior managers for corporate manslaughter under English Law
: specific proposals for reforms

  • Misheck Chomu Madechangu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Corporate manslaughter is unacceptable and avoidable as it is attributable to immoral safety decisions or reckless supervision of workplace safety by senior managers contrary to safety legislation.

The common law response to deaths caused by corporate actions was inadequate as prosecutions of medium and large sized companies including responsible individuals were difficult if not impossible. That defect inspired the law reforms that resulted in the promulgation of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, 2007(CMCHA, 2007), which enables prosecution of companies and payment of unlimited fines upon conviction. The offence contained in the CMCHA, 2007 has explicit exclusion of secondary liability for senior managers who are, however, central to the definition and commission of the corporate manslaughter offence contained in the CMCHA, 2007.

The thesis contends that corporate sanctions that are not supported by criminal liability of those responsible for corporate safety behaviour would not deter corporate deviance as long as it is profitable to break and bend the law. Absence of secondary liability is therefore a serious limitation as safety compliance is not likely to be taken seriously by those who determine workplace safety. The investigation established that other jurisdictions have secondary criminal liability for senior managers.

The existing sanctions against culpable senior managers under the HASAWA, 1974, are not only disproportionate for the seriousness of manslaughter but also problematic as discussed in chapters four and five. The small company owner managers and other professionals like doctors and private individuals are easily prosecuted and convicted for the common law gross negligence manslaughter. The law on manslaughter is therefore unfair to other classes of individuals and therefore inconsistent on that basis. In chapter three, the investigation noted and challenged some of the reasons from Industry that influenced the legislature to adopt explicit exclusion of secondary liability. The current law therefore need to be reformed for corporate compliance by also targeting the class of persons who determine corporate safety behaviour in medium and large sized companies. The thread of the moral arguments for criminalisation of senior managers for corporate manslaughter is therefore based on their role in corporate safety behaviour, justice and fairness.

In response to the limitation of the CMCHA, 2007, the thesis devised models through which culpable senior managers in medium and large sized companies could be identified and prosecuted, alongside their defendant companies, for workplace deaths. The author also contends that derived conclusions and recommendations would be applicable in the context of any corporate offence where secondary criminal liability for senior managers is deemed appropriate.
Date of AwardApr 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Nottingham Trent University

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