As companies are growing to have an increasingly prominent impact on society, the need to hold them accountable when they commit crime has moved to the forefront of concerns, both nationally and internationally.
Corporate crime has presented company and criminal law with the need to ensure that companies do not escape liability when they engage in criminal conduct. This has posed major problems, however, because criminal liability is traditionally based on individualistic principles and components. When such components are applied to collective entities, particular problems emerge.
Reason for instance notes that ‘most accident sequences, like the road to hell, are paved with good intentions – or with what seemed like good ideas at the time’. It is therefore necessary to explore the concept of corporate liability from various perspectives, and in relation to different types of criminal conduct, including manslaughter, environmental crimes, and fraud.
The research will be based primarily on qualitative data, using primary sources such as legislation and case law, and secondary sources such as journals, textbooks and government reports.
Assuming that an individual could be located, it would then need to be proven that he/she harboured the requisite components of gross negligence manslaughter – death following a gross breach of duty, which posed a significant risk.
Members of larger companies do not typically implement the decisions that they have made, rendering it notoriously difficult to impose liability. An alternative approach is offered by tort law, which seeks to eliminate the problems that plague the identification doctrine.
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This has been recognised by Bebb, who argues that ‘the legal debate as to whether a defendant is so senior as to embody the company will be replaced by a similar debate as to whether or not the defendants are senior managers…an issue that should be relevant to sentencing but not liability’. Academic literature therefore recognises that, while the current system in the UK has seen some improvements, problems remain, indicating the potential need for further reform.
The Act is also very narrow in its approach towards corporate crime, because it only imposes liability upon companies for organisational failures resulting in death.