Question reference: S6W-23227
- Asked by: Liam McArthur, MSP for Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats
- Date lodged: 28 November 2023
Current status: Answered by Dorothy Bain on 12 December 2023
To ask the Scottish Government how many prosecutions have ever been brought against corporations for the (a) common law offence of culpable homicide and (b) statutory offence of corporate homicide, and which corporations these were against.
On 22 December 1999 in Larkhall, Lanarkshire an explosion destroyed the dwellinghouse at No. 42 Carlyle Road. All four occupants of that dwellinghouse, including two children, were killed. Criminal proceedings were taken against Transco PLC in relation to the explosion on 22 December and the deaths of the four individuals, with the company being charged, in the first alternative, with the common law offence of culpable homicide and, in the second alternative, a contravention of sections 3 and 33(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Prosecution on the culpable homicide charge was unsuccessful. The trial proceeded on the charge under sections 3 and 33(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the jury unanimously found the company guilty of that offence on 25 August 2005. A fine of £15 million was imposed.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 created a new offence of corporate homicide in Scotland.
COPFS Health and Safety Investigation Unit leads the investigation and prosecution of all work-related deaths and all health and safety cases across Scotland. It provides advice, support and direction to investigators from Police Scotland, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Local Authorities and other regulatory agencies from the very earliest stages of an investigation.
Every fatality at a place of employment or fatality that occurs as a result of a work-related activity in Scotland is investigated as a potential corporate homicide. The very nature of this category of case means that detailed and lengthy investigation, often involving technical and medical issues and expert opinion, may be required. The Work Related Death Protocol for Scotland – which has been signed by COPFS, Police Scotland (ACPOS), British Transport Police and HSE - ensures that when a work-related death occurs, a thorough, co-ordinated and multi-agency investigation takes place allowing all possible offences to be considered.
Once reported each case is carefully considered by lawyers within the COPFS Health & Safety Investigation Unit and turns on its own facts and circumstances. Corporate homicide is considered in every work-related death reported for prosecution, and lines of investigation in connection with corporate homicide are explored regardless of whether or not such a charge was reported in connection with the death.
Since 2008 16 cases have been reported to the Crown in respect of corporate homicide as well as other charges. Of those cases two remain under consideration by the Crown. Two cases, reported in 2011 and 2016, were marked for no proceedings. In the remaining cases all have resulted in guilty convictions in a solemn court. Whilst there have been no prosecutions under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 the cases have resulted in guilty pleas to breaches of either section 2 or section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or maritime health and safety legislation. The Court has the same sentencing powers available to them for these offences as for the offence of corporate homicide. The fines issued in these cases range from £4,000 to £234,000.