Corporations are generally viewed as legal entities. This means that they are often subject to many of the same laws and consequences as a person. When an individual kills another person without the intent to do so, it is often referred to as manslaughter. Corporate manslaughter is a term used to refer to an unintentional killing for which a corporation is responsible.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act is likely the most well known body of legislation on this matter. The act went into effect in the United Kingdom in 2008. This act allows criminal charges to be filed against corporations that cause the death of one or more individuals. Under the Act, the term corporate manslaughter is recognized in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Corporate manslaughter is generally based on the duty of care. Corporations have a legal obligation to operate in a manner that reflects their concern for the health and safety of individuals. This includes both employees and non-employees.
There are many instances that could lead to the conclusion that a corporation has not fulfilled its duty of care. Take, for example, a corporation that is trying to fulfill the agreements of a contract. In doing so, the company demands increasing amounts of overtime from the workers. A heavy machine operator falls asleep, and as a result an innocent person is killed. The corporation could be convicted on charges of corporate manslaughter.
Corporate manslaughter is handled in a similar manner as other manslaughter cases. Police are generally responsible for the necessary investigations. If enough evidence is found, a case can be opened and it will be decided by the appropriate prosecuting authority.
When a corporation is convicted of corporate manslaughter, no one is incarcerated in most cases. This includes those who may have made decisions that lead to the charges. Instead, the corporation is generally fined.
In the UK, there is no limit set as to how much the fine can be. In addition to financial punishment, a corporation may be ordered to remedy the cause of the problem. The corporation may also be ordered to publicly announce that it has been convicted of corporate homicide.
It is important to note that there is a difference between manslaughter and murder. Manslaughter is generally due to negligence. An instance of manslaughter arises when there was no intention for a person to be killed. When corporations operate in a manner where there is an intention or likelihood that someone will die, the charges are generally more serious.