Progress on corporate manslaughter laws frozen

The Government is blocking long-sought corporate manslaughter laws that would potentially see senior officials responsible for the cervical cancer tests scandal and other crises jailed because “the system is looking after itself”, it has been claimed.

Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly made the claim before a Seanad debate with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on the repeatedly delayed corporate manslaughter bill.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Daly said despite a bill which would see managers responsible for scandals potentially jailed for 12 years being suggested by the Law Reform Commission in 2013, progress on the legislation has been frozen.

He said while the commission said the law change is needed to cover gaps in the system which mean managers are often not held accountable, the Department of Justice has “parked it in committee stage” for months by not proposing any amendments.

“The cervical cancer issue in terms of the lack of action by management when they should have acted would have been prevented by the corporate manslaughter bill if it was passed in 2013 or in 2016 when it was discussed again,” said Mr Daly.

"Section three of that bill specifically covers a manager facing jail if they are found to have contributed to what happened. Yet all the Government want to talk about is inquiries.

It’s clear there are people for what happened with the cervical cancer smear tests and the fallout, and this is a carbon copy in my view of the national blood transfusion scandal in 2002. But the system is just protecting and looking after itself.

Asked if the bill could be used to tackle the cervical cancer crisis, Mr Daly said the reality is the legislation needs to be used to “ensure prosecutions not inquiries if we have scandals in our public service”.

Mr Daly and other senators are expected to raise the matter with Mr Flanagan during a Seanad debate this evening.

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