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Manslaughter fines will be based on turnover

NEWS - Penalties under proposed corporate killing legislation will be greater than for financial misdemeanours

CONTRACTORS could be fined a percentage of their turnover for breaking proposed corporate manslaughter laws that took a significant step forward in Parliament last week.

A report from the Home Affairs and Work and Pensions Committee made the recommendation as part of a package of tougher penalties under the Bill.

Fines could be higher than those imposed for 'financial misdemeanours', like operating cartels.

The Government in its response to the recommendations said: 'We agree with the committee that turnover may be relevant to sentencing.' Labour also confirmed its backing for a speedy introduction of the Bill and said: 'We remain strongly committed to reforming this important area of the law and intend to legislate without delay as soon as Parliamentary time allows.' New corporate manslaughter laws will make it easier to prosecute contractors over site deaths by removing the current need to pin the blame on an individual manager.

Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart said: 'The draft Bill would overcome the main obstacle to convictions under the current law by removing the need to attach corporate guilt to the criminal negligence of a single very senior individual. This would allow for companies to be found guilty of manslaughter if grossly negligent management failures led to a death.' The Home Affairs Committee wants high fines under the new laws. Its recommendations state: 'There is a need for an improved system of fining companies. Following the enactment of the Bill, the Sentencing Guidelines Council should produce sentencing guidelines which state clearly that fines for corporate manslaughter should ref lect the gravity of the offence and which set out levels of fines, possibly based on percentages of turnover.

'It is particularly important that fines imposed for the corporate manslaughter offence are higher than those imposed for financial misdemeanours.'

Other plans include a full pre-sentence report on firms' previous health and safety performance as well as disqualifying directors at companies convicted of corporate manslaughter.

Ucatt general secretary Alan Ritchie said: 'Bereaved families have a right to justice, which the law as it currently stands denies them.'