Corporate manslaughter: An examination of the determinants of prosecutorial policy

Slapper, Gary (1993). Corporate manslaughter: An examination of the determinants of prosecutorial policy. Social and Legal Studies, 2(4) pp. 423–443.



Although the offence of corporate manslaughter has arguably been established in English law for over twenty five years, it has been prosecuted only twice and both indictments failed. There is, however, much prima facie evidence to implicate companies in reckless manslaughter.

The purpose of this paper is to present an explanation of why companies which appear to commit homicide have been treated with conspicuous indulgence by the state.

I begin by examining the evidence that incriminates companies in homicide. I look at how the state has responded to these deaths with marked leniency. A brief account is given of the historical development of corporate liability in this area. The state's prosecutorial policy is then considered from three perspectives, moving outwards from close focus to a wide historical angle: I examine (a) the mechanics of the criminal justice system, its procedures and the decisions of its personnel; (b) the role of public perception in influencing those decisions and (c) the aspects of the political economy which engender the public perception in question.

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