Labour bill to hold bosses to account for employee deaths

Richard Baker is stepping down ahead of this year's Scottish elections Picture: Contributed
Richard Baker is stepping down ahead of this year's Scottish elections Picture: Contributed
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An MSP will attempt to change the law to make company directors criminally liable if the death of a worker is caused through “gross negligence” this year.

Labour MSP Richard Baker will lodge the culpable homicide bill at Holyrood in the next few weeks, before he steps down in May after 12 years in the parliament.

Baker is hoping to get cross-party support for the plan, which he hopes will get through a key part of the parliamentary process before May’s election.

Company owners and ­managers found guilty by the courts of being responsible for workplace deaths could be jailed for life under the ­proposals.

Campaigners said it is difficult to hold anyone to account after deaths caused by health and safety breaches. Prosecutions usually take place under health and safety legislation and the firm is fined.

Under the existing law, cases of corporate homicide in the UK are governed by the 2007 Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which was intended to make it easier for firms to be held accountable for deaths caused by their negligence.

However, no such cases have ever been pursued in Scotland under the UK legislation.

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The act means that a company is guilty of a criminal offence if the way in which its activities were managed or organised caused a ­person’s death, and amounted to a “gross breach” of a relevant duty of care owed by the ­organisation to the deceased. However, Mr Baker’s bill would make individuals and organisations equal before the criminal law and will be equally capable of conviction for culpable homicide.

The North East Labour MSP, who served as a shadow minister under Iain Gray and Johann Lamont, said he wants to get the bulk of the bill through parliament before May’s election, though it is unlikely to get through the full parliamentary process by then.

The Labour politician said this would mean that an MSP elected in May could take over the bill, which he hoped would be able to be fast-tracked through parliament.

He said: “It is vital Scots law is reformed to ensure that employers whose recklessness towards health and safety results in the deaths of employees.

“I will table my bill before the end of this parliament and seek cross-party support, which would also mean expedite the consultation process for a new bill in the next.

“The consultation process on my proposed Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill was ­participated in by a wide range of stakeholders with a clear majority supporting my proposed change in the law.

“While I will not be a member of the next parliament I hope any new Scottish Government or a member of the new parliament will recognise the need and support for this measure and bring forward legislation.”