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Corporate killing: dead on arrival?

(sample FCII dissertation)

Publication date:

01 July 2002

Last updated:

22 September 2017


Jonathan Dye

Major disasters involving death or injury to innocent people always generate a public demand that those responsible be brought to account.  Tragedies involving public transport systems provide the most obvious examples, e.g. Herald of Free Enterprise, Kings Cross fire and the recent series of rail disasters.

Proposals for reform of the law of involuntary manslaughter and the implications for directors' and officers' liability insurers

A successful prosecution for involuntary manslaughter would potentially satisfy the desire for justice, but the current legal framework is not perceived to provide a just result. Those responsible for operating large corporations cannot be linked closely enough with the acts or omissions that led to the disaster, so neither senior individuals nor the corporation itself can be convicted.

Various proposals for reform have been put forward, including the possibility of the creation of a new offence of "corporate killing".

This article reviews the existing law on involuntary manslaughter and considers the proposals for reform. It also considers whether the new regime would provide a more effective remedy or whether a more focused application of the current health and safety legislation would deliver a better result.

In addition, the implications for directors' and officers' liability insurers are discussed. Senior individuals within corporations may be the subjects of prosecution in their own right or central characters in any investigation of the corporation itself, so the insurance protection available to them is a key issue.

This article appeared in the  Journal of insurance research and practice and was submitted as an FCII dissertation (Major achievement - option 2).

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This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), the CII group, local institute or Society, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the CII group, local institutes, or Societies.


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