Business Law Criminal Essay

3191 Words Oct 1st, 2014 13 Pages

Criminal Liability Essay

"Criminal liability and the justifications for, and objectives of, punishment are based on the notion of individual blameworthiness" In light of the above statement, consider whether imposing criminal liability on corporations for manslaughter is ever justified.

English law has yet to come to terms with the conceptually difficult task of attributing liability for manslaughter to a corporate entity. The essential problem is that a corporation is granted an independent status by a pragmatic legal fiction which affords an identity to entity which has no physical existence. Salomon v. Salomon & Co.
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Amid a public outcry and intense media pressure for effective sanctions P&O was accused of gross negligence and prosecuted for manslaughter over the incident but the case subsequently collapsed. Momentum gathered behind the cause for reform as the same fate befell attempts to sustain corporate prosecutions in the aftermath of the King's Cross fire (1987) , the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster in Scotland (where the equivalent offence is culpable homicide) (1988), the Clapham Rail crash (1988) and the Marchioness pleasure boat tragedy (1989). Over the years since 1989 there have been other tragedies too numerous to mention, but in not a single case was a large company successfully prosecuted for manslaughter.

Directing Mind Theory
Given that the company has no conscience or mind of its own, it has been suggested that the law should look to a senior representative of the company and attribute his or her state of mind to the company itself. This is a tenuous approach, because it undermines the fundamental rule of personal criminal responsibility, but it has received considerable academic support and comment. The traditional starting point in an analysis of the evolution of directing

mind theory is the dictum of Viscount Haldane in the civil case, Lennard's Carrying Co Ltd v Asiatic Petroleum Co Ltd [1915]. He stated: "A corporation is an abstraction. It has no mind of its own any more than it has a body of its own; its active and directing will must

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