Manslaughter bill will protect top managers at offender institutions

Senior managers at young offender institutions will be protected
from prosecution even when their failure results in the death of a
child, under the draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill.

Since 1990 there have been 28 deaths of 15 to 17 year olds in
custody. But detaining prisoners is one of the few functions exempt
from the corporate manslaughter offence, which would be used to
prosecute companies and organisations that have neglected their
employees’ safety.

The bill updates laws on corporate killing and focuses
responsibility on the working practices of the organisation, as set
by senior managers.

Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group Inquest, is “deeply
concerned” by the move.

“Even if a death takes place as a result of gross failures on
the part of the senior management of a prison, it cannot be
prosecuted for homicide,” she said, adding that prisons should be
subject to the same procedures as companies and organisations.

Last month it emerged that police had contemplated bringing
manslaughter charges against prison staff after the killing of
Zahid Mubarek by his cellmate Robert Stewart at Feltham YOI in
March 2000.

The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service but it
was decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Detention of prisoners and functions relating to this, such as
categorisation and doubling-up in cells, would not be covered by
the proposed new criminal offence, said a Home Office

However, the maintenance of the prison estate and employer
duties relating to safe working practices as well as catering would
be covered.

She added that accountability for the organisation and
management of detention would continue to be covered by existing
procedures, including independent inspections, ministerial
accountability and public inquests and inquiries.

Other public and government functions outside the scope of the
bill include regulatory standards, statutory inspection and public
policy decisions.

The draft Bill is out for consultation until 12 June.

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