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Research Handbook on Corporate Legal Responsibility

Research Handbook on Corporate Legal Responsibility

Elgar original reference

Edited by Stephen Tully

The ever-important topic of corporate legal responsibility is deconstructed into many multifaceted components in this fascinating Handbook, which systematically examines each in turn and describes the contemporary legal position.

Chapter 10: Moral Indifference and Corporate Manslaughter: Compromising Safety in the Name of Profit?

Simon Pemberton

Subjects: law - academic, company and insolvency law, corporate law and governance


Simon Pemberton1 Evil should not be unrecognised merely because it is as banal as indifference; indifference rather than intent may well be the greater cause of avoidable human suffering . . . (Box, 1983: 21) Introduction Many of us in western societies view corporations to be integral to the high standards of living we experience. Equally, it is true to say that few of us reflect upon the harmful consequences of corporations’ profit-seeking activities. In fact to some readers it may come as a bit of a shock to read the levels of fatalities caused by corporate activity. In 2002/03, according to the figures of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 227 workers died from fatal injuries (HSE, 2003). Unfortunately, this figure is only the tip of the iceberg. Tombs (1998: 78) suggests that the data are ‘far from complete’. Glaring omissions include the exclusion of deaths in certain sectors (for example, sea fishing; deaths of workers in road traffic accidents; and deaths resulting from occupational-related diseases), thus, taking the employee death toll each year into the thousands. Slapper’s (1999) empirical study of deaths at work revealed that between 1965–95, there were a total of two manslaughter convictions. However, during this period 20,000 people were killed in work-related accidents and this does not include the estimated 10,000 or more who die every year from work-related medical conditions. While workers are the more likely victims of corporate activity, members of the public, consumers and passengers have also paid the ultimate price....

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