Fleet News

New negligence laws bring threat of prison

TOUGH new laws which would see companies operating fleets facing unlimited fines, together with senior managers being sent to jail if their negligence contributed to fatal road accidents, look set to be introduced by the Home Office. Proposals will be published in the next few weeks for a new law of corporate manslaughter which will allow companies as well as individuals to be prosecuted for causing fatal accidents.

The move, revealed in an internal memo from Home Office Minister Charles Clarke, is aimed at overcoming the failure of the present corporate manslaughter charge that can only be brought if an individual can be named as being personally responsible. The police had complained that such a charge is often difficult to substantiate and support the new move.

It will mean that not only can senior employees be jailed for negligence, but now their companies could face bankruptcy with no limit likely to be set on the fines judges can impose. The law will further 'turn the screw' on fleets which continue to neglect driver safety and are increasingly becoming a target of Government, Health and Safety Executive and police action.

Inspector Ian Debbage, of Essex Police, who has warned fleets that he investigates road deaths with the 'same rigour as a potential manslaughter case', said: 'A tragedy on the road caused by a lack of proper corporate activity is no different to one at another location and the use of the law should reflect this. My personal opinion is that companies could face bankruptcy if they ignore corporate liability.'

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