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Lawyers say killing law may not be passed

CONSTRUCTION lawyers are questioning whether the long-awaited Corporate Manslaughter Bill will ever become law.

The draft bill - published two weeks ago - was first proposed by the Law Commission in 1996 but the May 5 election means it will be delayed and will not be an issue until the next Parliament.

Davies Arnold Cooper partner for health and safety Fiona Gill said: 'Big questions we have to ask are: why has it been published now and will it ever see the light of day? But if the Government is returned they will be committed to complete the consultation.'

The draft bill, which will be out for consultation for eight weeks, is not guaranteed to become law and its implementation will depend on whether Labour is re-elected.

Construction law specialist Eversheds voiced concerns that the police and the Health and Safety Executive are ill-equipped to head corporate manslaughter probes. Lawyer Sarah Taylor said: 'Neither the Health and Safety Executive nor the police at present have the necessary experience to investigate a new offence of corporate manslaughter.'

But Davies Arnold Cooper said the HSE has emphasised a corporate manslaughter investigation would only be considered in the most serious cases.

Ms Gill said: 'The HSE has reassured us that corporate manslaughter charges would only be brought when a gross failure can be proved.'

A new statutory offence is proposed that will make it easier to bring corporations to book. Firms who cause the deaths of workers could face unlimited fines and court orders to reshuffle their management structure.

The law would also apply to the Crown, the police and the Government, which are all exempt under existing legislation.