Legal lesson from Grenfell

Over the last several years, there has been numerous reports of buildings, built primarily during the boom, not meeting fire safety or other building regulations or being deemed unsafe, writes Paul Mills,

To some of us, it appears that the regulations, and particularly the implementation of the rules, as well as a failure to inspect buildings, are lax. How could it be any other way, since no one appears to be responsible?

But there must be tragedies waiting to happen here and the money required to make good the defects is considerable.

The fire which took at least 80 lives at Grenfell Tower in London was only two months ago. It should remain as a reminder to us all. It appears the fire started and spread rapidly because cheap material may have been used on its refurbished cladding.

The British government commissioned inspections on tower blocks across the UK and identified a considerable number of buildings which were at risk.

Scotland Yard detectives investigating the fire said they had informed the “Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter, under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007”.

Serious though it sounded, it left many people wondering about the penalties faced if convicted of corporate manslaughter.

Corporate manslaughter is a criminal offence in English law, being an act of homicide committed by a company or organisation.

In general, in English criminal law, “a juristic person” is in the same position as a natural person. So there is only one remedy if the corporate is found guilty. That is a financial remedy, also known as a fine.

But the corporate then passes on the fine. It may be difficult to determine who exactly made the decision to override certain specifications but that is no eason to blame everyone, which is exactly what corporate responsibility does.


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