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Extension of corporate manslaughter law

The amended Corporate Manslaughter Act, which now includes custody providers, namely prisons, secure hospitals, police, immigration detention centres and juvenile detention facilities, came into effect on 1 September 2011.  The Government has also extended the law so that it will also apply to Ministry of Defence custody facilities and UK Borders Agency customs custodial facilities. The change increases the accountability of custody providers (both public and private) under the criminal law. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 came into force in April 2008 with the exclusion of the custody provisions. It was a statutory offence of corporate manslaughter when an organisation is found guilty if the way in which its activities were managed or organised caused a death and amounted to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased. A substantial part of the breach must have been in the way activities were managed by senior management.  As from1 September 2011, an organisation (including a Government Department) can be convicted of a corporate manslaughter offence if the way in which its activities were managed or organised caused a person’s death and amounted to a gross breach of the duty of care owed to the deceased by virtue of that person being held in custody.  The custody provisions applies to deaths of persons owed a duty of care by virtue of: being detained at a custodial institution, or in a custody area at a court or police station, at a removal centre or short-term holding facility, transported in a vehicle or being held in any premises in pursuance of prison escort arrangements or immigration escort arrangements, living in secure accommodation in which the person has been placed, or if the person is a detained patient. The Act also applies to all custody providers, whether public or private (i.e. contracted service providers). Liability will ultimately be determined by the courts, depending on the circumstances of the case.  The custody provisions, however, do not create additional duties of care. All custody providers already owe duties of care to detainees, to the same extent that they do to their staff or the public, by virtue of one of the other duties contained in the Act. However, once the custody provisions are commenced the specific duty of care owed to detained persons will be relevant for the purposes of the offence in the Act.  Click here for the main legislation.

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