Fleet News

Legislation: Timeline of the Corporate Manslaughter Bill

We look at the major developments over the last eight years which have seen the new law develop until it finally received Royal Assent last month

The long-awaited Corporate Manslaughter Bill finally received Royal Assent at the end of last month, and will become law from next April.

Phill Tromans looks back at how the new law came to be, as reported through the pages of Fleet News.

From a notion of “enforcement through legislation” through to the idea of a “corporate killing charge”, the road to its creation has been long and highly controversial.

  • 1999

    MINISTER BLASTS FLEET SAFETY RECORD
    January 22

    Junior transport minister Lord Whitty condemns British fleets’ poor safety records. Fleet News said his comments “act as a warning to fleet managers that if they do not act over fleet safety, the government could take action itself”.

    IT’S TIME TO PUT SAFETY FIRST
    April 23

    The Driving Standards Agency introduces a fleet safety benchmarking scheme, but hints that if encouraging companies to be more responsible fails, “enforcement through legislation may be the only other option”.

    FLEETS WARNED AS BOSSES GUILTY IN DEATH CRASH
    November 26

    RoSPA warns that fleet operators and company bosses could find themselves in court if they allow company drivers to spend too many hours behind the wheel, following an Old Bailey manslaughter conviction of two haulage company directors. One of their drivers fell asleep at the wheel, causing a seven-vehicle pile-up on the M25 and killing two.

  • 2000

    FLEETS WARNED OVER PROPOSED CORPORATE KILLING CHARGE
    June 2

    The Home Office publishes a set of proposals designed to make the law on involuntary manslaughter more effective. They include a new offence of corporate killing and three offences to deal with death caused by a company’s recklessness or carelessness.

  • 2001

    EMPLOYERS FACE CRACKDOWN OVER FLEET DRIVER SAFETY
    November 15

    An early copy of the Work-Related Road Safety Task Group report on cutting fleet accidents is obtained by Fleet News. It says police forces should take tougher action to prosecute employers that fail to meet their responsibilities under road traffic law.

    WARNING TO FLEETS AFTER SELBY TRIAL
    December 20

    Employers are warned to hammer home the dangers of driving tired after Gary Hart is convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, after crashing onto a railway line, derailing a train and killing 10 people.

  • 2002

    CRASH “TEST CASE” WARNING TO FLEETS
    May 30

    Police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service are investigating crashes involving company cars to find a high-profile test case to prosecute a company breaching its duty of care to drivers.

    POLICE GET GUIDANCE ON WORK-RELATED ACCIDENTS
    July 11

    The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) sets out guidelines for the first time on how police should prosecute managers and companies failing in their duty of care to drivers, calling for deaths on the roads to be treated in the same way as homicide.

  • 2003

    BLUNKETT ATTACKED FOR “KILLING LAW” CONFUSION
    May 29

    Then-home secretary David Blunkett comes under fire for leaving fleets in the dark over proposed corporate killing legislation.

    CORPORATE KILLING LAW “NOT ON BACK BURNER”
    December 4

    The government renews its commitment to the introduction of a corporate manslaughter law despite no mention of it in the Queen’s Speech.

    The announcement comes as some accuse ministers of treating it as a low priority.

  • 2004

    FIRMS REVIEW SAFETY AFTER JAIL SENTENCE
    September 9

    The jailing of a fleet van driver who killed another motorist by crashing while on a mobile phone prompts a major risk review by some of Britain’s biggest firms. Alan Milbanke, who delivered for Guilbert stationary, was jailed for three years.

  • 2005

    BILL BRINGS DEATH LAW CLOSER FOR UK FIRMS
    March 31

    The government reveals the corporate manslaughter bill, which makes corporate manslaughter an offence that will apply when someone dies because of gross failures of a company’s senior management. It is designed to ensure that companies, rather than individuals, can be prosecuted.

    CORPORATE KILLING LAW A STEP NEARER
    June 23

    The consultation period ends. The bill is expected to be law within 18 months, and fleets hope the law works at all levels for companies both large and small.

    CARING FLEETS SAFE FROM “KILLING” LAW
    July 27

    The Corporate Manslaughter Bill receives its first reading in the House of Commons. But critics say the bill has been watered down since its inception and may prove ineffectual.

    In fleet terms, that means the bill could have fewer teeth than current health and safety laws.

  • 2006

    CLEARER RULES ON ROAD DEATH LAWS
    August 3

    New guidance is given to police on whether to call in the HSE if their findings lead them to believe that management failures have seriously contributed to an accident. The guidance comes in a rewritten appendix in the Road Death Investigation Manual.

  • 2007

    DFT SAFETY PUSH TO TARGET FLEETS
    March 8

    The DfT unveils proposals to give the police new powers to undertake formal inspections of companies whose drivers and vehicles come to their attention on the roads. It would mean the police could turn up at employers’ doors if they felt the vehicle or driver warranted it, not just if there had been an accident.

    CRASH TRAGEDY CASE A “WAKE-UP CALL TO ALL FLEETS”
    May 5

    The Court of Appeal rules that a driver injured after falling asleep at the wheel can sue his company for damages. Michael Eyres fell asleep in his van after being awake for 19 hours. The Court said Mr Eyres was “in that predicament because his employers had put him there”.

    FLEET ALERT OVER WORK DEATH LAW
    August 2

    The corporate manslaughter bill finally receives Royal Assent and will become law from next April. Experts, including solicitor David Faithful predict that it will lead to more prosecutions.

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