Labour Party MSP Richard Baker (North East Scotland region) has called for changes to the existing laws governing corporate homicide, saying they are "not able to cope with modern times and, in particular, modern business and other relationships". In Scotland, there are on average 20 workplace fatalities per year, and in 2012/13 22 people died.
The MSP is now consulting on a proposed Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill to this effect, although it is unlikely it will materialise before to 2016 Scottish parliamentary elections.
Since the offence of corporate homicide was created under the Corporate Homicide Act 2007, there have been no prosecutions of directors in Scotland whatsoever, regardless of the fact the aim of the Act was to make it easier for organisations to be held accountable for deaths caused by their health and safety failures. As a result of the lack of prosecution, Mr Baker MSP described the 2007 Act as an utter failure.
Prior to the Corporate Homicide Act, it was only possible to find a company or public body guilty of an offence if a senior figure, acting as the company's 'controlling mind', was guilty.
The new law makes an organise guilty of such an offence if the way in which its activities were managed or organised caused a person's death, amounting to a "gross breach" of a relevant duty of care owed to them by the organisation. Unlimited fines can be opposed under the law, and organisations can be made to publicise their conviction and provide details about it.
The Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill proposes to redefine the offence in Scotland by including reckless or gross negligence to constitute culpable homicide, and mean "office-holders in organisations" could also be found guilty of the offence.
Mr Baker said: "The intention of this proposed legislation is not only to create appropriate legal remedies for loss of life where the recklessness or gross negligence of employers is proved, but also to help foster a greater focus on health and safety in organisations and to reduce the numbers of lives lost at work in Scotland.
"I am convinced that we require an Act of the Scottish Parliament that will ensure that individuals and organisations will be equal before the criminal law and will be equally capable of conviction for culpable homicide in appropriate circumstances", Mr Baker concluded.
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