In November 1991, Disaster Action presented a submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, calling for radical changes in the criminal justice system in the treatment of possible corporate crimes of violence. Following publication of the Law Commission's consultation paper on manslaughter, Disaster Action recommended further changes (see The Case for Coporate Responsibility in our Publications area). In March 1996, the Law Commission acknowledged the input of Disaster Action and other support groups and published a draft Bill creating a new offence of corporate killing. This Bill was not enacted.
In June 2005, we made a written submission on the draft Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill and gave oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in November of the same year. The Bill then went back through committee, with the final version put before parliament in October 2006, with some of Disaster Action’s suggested amendments included.
On introducing the Bill to the House of Commons on 10 October 2006 Home Secretary John Reid paid tribute to Maurice de Rohan and Disaster Action in reaching this point, almost 20 years after the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise, which was the catalyst for the work that was to follow.
6 April 2008 saw the enactment of The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The central purpose of this law is to ensure that other companies should not replicate the sloppy corporate behaviour that led to the ‘unlawful killing’ of so many people in the 1987 Herald of Free Enterprise sinking. The law acts as an important deterrent, offering the protection denied to those killed on the Herald and in numerous disasters that have followed.
This law is a testament to the commitment of so many individuals, family and survivor groups who worked together towards a common purpose: to influence business and political structures to change attitudes to what is acceptable practice.
Disaster Action’s work on corporate responsibility was funded by The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.