Letter: Manslaughter charges against employers

Sir: You report (25 March) a spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive as defending the lack of manslaughter charges against employers by saying 'experience had shown that manslaughter prosecutions in areas of HSE jurisdiction rarely succeeded'. Of course they have 'rarely succeeded'; this is because they have hardly ever been brought. There have been two (in 1988 and 1990) in the last 30 years, and two directors were convicted of manslaughter in the first case. That represents a 50 per cent success rate, higher than for most areas of crime prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Since 1965, 19,000 people have been killed at work and my research suggests that between 5 and 10 per cent of these fatalities would have been prosecutable as manslaughter cases.

The 19,000 figure, and the 500 deaths per year, do not include the scores of people killed on the roads by vehicles whose drivers are 'at work', such as lorry drivers, van drivers and commercial sales representatives; yet there is evidence that poor vehicle maintenance (which employers may well be aware of) is implicated in a number of these incidents.

Yours faithfully,


The Law School

Staffordshire University


26 March