Workplace Manslaughter Lawyers
Thomas Bell navigated an extremely difficult period for me with grace, humility, honesty, and a decent serve of reality.
I am frequently grateful to Thomas and counsel Mr Richter for their professional, diligent and ethical approach to my defence, this being a significant factor in achieving the best possible resolution of my matter.
Our accomplished team of workplace manslaughter lawyers specialises in providing strategic defence for companies grappling with the gravity of such accusations. Recognising the unique challenges posed by workplace safety and criminal law, we offer a dedicated and thorough approach to safeguarding the interests of our clients. With a commitment to delivering comprehensive legal support, we stand prepared to advocate for your company, ensuring a strong and tailored defence to address these serious legal matters.
The Laws Around Workplace Manslaughter
Workplace Manslaughter (known as industrial manslaughter in some jurisdictions) is a species of homicide that shares similarities to common law manslaughter, but is a distinct offence and has unique elements that the prosecution must prove. The offence itself can be found in section 39G(1) and (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In order to be found guilty of workplace manslaughter, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:Workplace Manslaughter (known as industrial manslaughter in some jurisdictions) is a species of homicide that shares similarities to common law manslaughter, but is a distinct offence and has unique elements that the prosecution must prove. The offence itself can be found in section 39G(1) and (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In order to be found guilty of workplace manslaughter, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The accused person is not a volunteer;
- That person has engaged in conduct that is negligent;
- That the negligent conduct constitutes a breach of an applicable duty that the person owes to another person; and
- That the negligent conduct caused the death of that other person.
- Section 39G(2) also contains the same test but is applicable to officers of an ‘applicable entity.’ The drafters of the legislation have included definitions for a number of terms used.
Conduct includes an act, but also an omission.
Breach of applicable duty
Conduct may amount to a breach of a duty even though any other conduct also contributed to the breach and whether or not proceedings have been instituted in relation to the other breach.
A person’s conduct is negligent if it involves a great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person in the circumstances in which the conduct was engaged in AND it involves a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.
This is a slightly different test to the test for negligence in common law manslaughter. Common law manslaughter requires that an accused’s act or omission must have fallen so far below the standard of care a reasonable person would have exercised, and to have involved such a high risk of death or really serious injury, that the act or omission merits criminal punishment. It is noted that the phrase ‘merits criminal punishment’ and the ‘really’ in serious injury has been omitted and that the phrase ‘serious illness’ has been added. Furthermore, the wording has been altered from ‘so far below’ to ‘great falling short.’
There may be many arguable ways to demonstrate that particular conduct does not amount to ‘negligent’ conduct as per the act. For example, an accused person might have engaged in conduct that was a ‘great falling short of the standard of care,’ however, it may be arguable that the risk of death or serious injury thus created was only small, or moderate. Anything less than a ‘high’ risk would require the accused person to be acquitted. There are separate provisions addressing negligent conduct on behalf of bodies corporate.
Duties owed to another person
A person may owe another person an ‘applicable duty’ if the act imposes a duty on a person and it is either explicit, or implicit, that the duty is owed to another person
For example, the OHSA prescribes a number of duties on particular people. These include duties of employers to employees and other persons, duties of self-employed persons, duties of designers and manufacturers. A duty may be explicitly owed if the person owed the person to whom the duty is owed falls into a ‘class’ of persons specified in the legislation and the duty relates directly to the health and safety of that person. However, it may also be implicitly owed if the purpose of the provision is to ensure the health and safety of persons of a particular class.
If found guilty of workplace manslaughter, penalties can be severe. This includes a maximum of 20 years imprisonment for individuals and up to 100,000 penalty units for bodies corporate. Prosecutions for workplace manslaughter should be taken extremely seriously. Furthermore, if you are a Director of a Company or looking at becoming one, your ability to hold a Directorship or become an Office Holder in a company in the future might be severely (and perhaps permanently) affected. Accordingly, the penalties can be actual, reputational, financial and ongoing.
There is no statute of limitations applicable to workplace manslaughter. A prosecution can be brought at any time (but not for conduct alleged to have occurred prior to when the legislation was introduced). Workplace manslaughter has also been added to the few criminal offences where a prosecution can be reopened after an acquittal on application by a prosecutor to the Court of Appeal. Workplace manslaughter is also a DNA forensic sample offence, so a Court can order the retention of a DNA sample of a person found guilty of workplace manslaughter if it is in the interests of justice to do so.
If you are charged, or believe that you may be investigated and charged with this offence, early advice is crucial. What you say or do might have unforeseen consequences upon the investigation. Our experienced team of lawyers are familiar with the ever changing and dynamic nature of the criminal law and are ready with the knowledge and experience to provide you with the advice you need. We also liaise with your insurer because, depending on your policy, your legal fees may be covered by the terms of your insurance.