The draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill, which proposes to "introduce a new offence for holding organisations to account for gross failings by their senior management that have had fatal consequences", has been met with concern by groups such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) regarding whether the legislation might create an uneven playing field between private and public companies.
The lobbying group, the Centre for Corporate Accountability, recently commissioned a legal opinion, that warns that the draft Bill may contravene the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) by providing exemptions for the Crown (in other words the government to certain public sector bodies) from liability. The Bill removes the blanket immunity for the Crown that exists under current corporate manslaughter laws, but has been criticised for providing numerous exemptions that might "introduce a substantial species of crown immunity through the back door". Some key exclusions from the scope of the offence created are deaths of persons in police and prison custody, deaths caused by the armed services preparing for battle, and deaths due to public policy decisions. The opinion suggests that under the proposed legislation Articles 2 (the right to life), 3 (protection from torture or inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment), and 8 (the right to privacy) of the ECHR could be violated by the state, and yet it could be exempt from prosecution.
The Home Office has responded, saying that the proposals create a "broad level playing field" when public and private bodies are engaged in "similar activities" such as the supply of goods or services.
The Draft Bill relates only to England and Wales, however, the Scottish Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, has confirmed that the Executive would consult on proposals to create a new offence of corporate homicide in Scotland. No firm proposals have yet emerged.