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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 13:10 GMT
'Corporate homicide' law planned
Parliament Square, Edinburgh
The Supreme Courts, where cases would be prosecuted
An offence of "corporate homicide" could be introduced in Scotland.

Plans have been announced for a specific offence for corporate and public bodies which cause death through failures of management.

The Scottish Executive will publish a consultation paper in the new year, putting forward options for changes to the law in this area.

The Queen's Speech contained plans for a bill on corporate manslaughter relating only to England and Wales.

Unions in Scotland have campaigned for such a law and welcomed the announcement by the Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson.

'Public concern'

STUC general secretary Bill Speirs said he hoped it would hold company directors responsible for the failure to protect workers properly under health and safety directives.

Ms Jamieson said: "I know there is public concern that there is a possible gap in the law that makes it difficult for companies to be prosecuted for deaths that are attributable to management failures.

"The first minister and I have already made it clear that if legislation was required to reform this area of law then we will not hesitate to bring forward proposals for legislation.

"This is a very complex area of law and it is crucial to get the issues of accountability right.

"Consultation on specific proposals will be a very helpful step in addressing those issues."

Legal history

In June 2003, appeal court judges in Edinburgh rejected a charge of culpable homicide brought against the gas pipeline firm, Transco, following the death of a family-of-four in Larkhall.

It was the first time in Scottish legal history that such a charge had been brought against a company but the judges ruled it was "irrelevant".

Transco still faces another charge brought under the Health and Safety at Work Act, relating to the explosion in December 1999.

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