Can You Defend A Corporate Manslaughter Prosecution?
We’ve all heard about corporate manslaughter prosecutions being taken after a fatal accident in the workplace, but if your business employs people who drive for work, what if they were involved in a fatal accident? Police forces in the UK are increasingly looking for the first business to take corporate manslaughter charges against following a fatal accident on the road.
A prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 does not have to prove that a certain individual in the business was at fault. However, it would need to prove that management conduct fell well below what should be expected and that a significant part of the failure can be tracked to senior levels within the business.
The lowest fine specified by the new Sentencing Guidelines is a £180,000 penalty as the starting point for fining micro organisations with a turnover up to £2 million. The guidelines recommend category ranges of fines that increase in line with the turnover of the business. The largest fine is £20,000,000 at the top of the category range for large organisations with a turnover greater than £50 million.
So what evidence would your business need to provide to demonstrate that your duty of care towards your drivers has been met? Here are a few ideas:
- Have a robust ‘Driving at Work’ policy and have records that demonstrate the policy has been communicated to drivers.
- Keep records that demonstrate that driver licence checks are carried out against the DVLA database.
- Carry out a risk assessment that covers the driver, their vehicle and the driving activity. If a high risk driver is identified, record an action plan to lower the level of risk and monitor the implementation of the plan.
- Keep records to demonstrate that health checks and eye checks are undertaken by drivers so you have evidence that they are fit to drive.
- Provide information and training to drivers and ensure that there is appropriate follow up after a driver has a blameworthy accident. Does that driver need retraining? This aspect of the management process should be well documented.
- Require your driver to carry out a check of their vehicle before it is used to ensure that it is roadworthy.
- If vehicle defects are found, keep an audit trail to demonstrate that the problem is resolved before the vehicle is used again.
- Keep service records and maintenance records and ensure that MOT and insurance arrangements are up to date.
There are a number of corporate manslaughter investigations relating to fatal road accidents that are ongoing and there are many more current civil cases. The number of fatal accidents on the road and the amount of time employees spend driving for work will inevitably result in a successful driving related corporate manslaughter prosecution. There has never been a better time to develop your system for managing your drivers and ensuring that there is an audit trail in place to demonstrate your management approach.
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