Govt looks at corporate manslaughter
Thu, 06 Dec 2012 6:43p.m.
By Patrick Gower
The Government is taking legal advice on introducing a criminal charge of corporate manslaughter, when organisations are found guilty of negligence causing death.
A 3 News Reid Research poll shows it would have strong public support.
At Pike River there were 29 deaths and as everybody knows, a questionable lack of accountability from those at the top.
The families want a criminal charge called corporate manslaughter introduced - without it, they say, there is no way of punishing those responsible.
“They don't care - and they know they can get away with it and if we continue to go down this path we are going to have more disasters such as Pike River,” families’ spokesman Bernie Monk says.
Prime Minister John Key is open to the idea.
“Something like corporate manslaughter might change that focus, and so it is definitely worthy of consideration.”
The 3 News poll shows the public agrees. When asked if they would like to see a charge of corporate manslaughter introduced so that corporations, companies, and Government departments guilty of negligence causing deaths can be held to account, 74 percent said yes and 26 percent said no.
Mr Key revealed today it's on the Government's agenda.
“We are getting legal advice on whether that is something that would be workable, and what the implications of corporate manslaughter would be - when we fully understand that we will be able to offer a view.”
It could also apply in cases like the RSA murders, the Air force's Anzac Day helicopter crash and the CTV building collapse.
Labour's Andrew Little has his own bill ready to go. He says if an organisation "causes death", there should be an up to $10 million fine for the organisation, up to 10 years in jail for senior managers and a publicity order the organisation pays for.
Canada and Australia already have a charge of corporate manslaughter in place. Given the public desire and political interest, it may not be long until it is in place here too. Mr Key says the legal advice from Crown Law will be back early next year.
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12/12/2012 12:23:15 a.m.
Hey Mike - how do you expect New Zealanders to live then? If we're not allowed to work because of governmental H&S failures, and we're not allowed to jump over the ditch due to wage restrictions, what ARE we supposed to do? I'd move to Oz in an instant if I had the capital. Too bad I'm stuck on less than minimum wage...
10/12/2012 8:27:56 a.m.
Sorry John, every one has choices - if you are prepared to risk killing yourself in return for a wage, and your union is also prepared to let this environment exist (as did the union at Pike River), then it is a bit rich to complain when the proverbial hits the fan. The miners have been very noisy about the greener pastures available over the ditch, so I would have thought that was one option available to anyone who thought their safety was being compromised. If the union had stood up on their hind legs, no one would have had their employment seriously jepordised. Of course the employer should have sorted things out, but personal responsibility appears to be a foreign concept in good old Godzone. How about looking after your own interests, rather than playing the victim? People are quick enough to moan about "nannny state" interfering in their lives, but they are also quick to blame the government when it doesn't protect them from their own failings. I guess it is easier to do that than to take responsibility for your own destiny...
8/12/2012 7:54:02 p.m.
Yeah, would that mean when a sensitive claimant commits suicide as a result of ACC denying counselling hours - ACC will be held accountable for their decision??
As ACC barely follow DRSL directions now I cannot see this charge of corporate manslaughter will improve their illegal operations :(
8/12/2012 12:00:30 a.m.
As long as it is focused on personal accountability rather than passing the buck to tax payers then I'm all for it. Judges giving jail time and personal fines to corporate managers and government top officials is the way to go on this. However corporations adapt and will find a way to factor in this additional risk by increasing prices to cover these fines and extra layers of H&S. I also agree with Cyril that local and central government would soon become a gibbering wall of indecision.
7/12/2012 4:18:31 p.m.
I disagree, Cate - with unemployment the way it is, if you were to stand strong and refuse to work in a dodgy H&S environment you'd immediately be out of a job. This "choice" you claim we all have is only available to those at the top. Some of us don't have the luxury to be able to walk away from a job, and have to work regardless of the conditions. That's why we rely on the government to do the enforcing.
7/12/2012 2:23:56 p.m.
The Pike River disaster was spectacular, and therefore continues to make up a fair part of televised news reporting each night, whilst other preventable causes of death get little mention. Even one workplace death is one too many, & 26 deaths is appalling, but this needs to be seen in perspective. More than 5000 NZer's die each year from tabacco use - 26 every 2 days. 31% of Maori die from tobbacco usage, and this poison accounts for 17% of all deaths in NZ. Put that on TV every night for a year and many more lives are likely to be saved than through any changes to workplace legislation.
7/12/2012 12:30:54 p.m.
Too right Mike. I am appaled by the number of parties (including the site H&S Manager) who worked at Pike River who have come out after the fact complaining about how poor the H&S environment was there, yet they still showed up for work each day, and exposed themselves to the risks. Things won't change much until individuals also take some personal responsibility. If it's not safe, then don't do it. If this approach were taken, then the employers will soon take an interest.
7/12/2012 12:02:34 p.m.
Great news! I look forward to the government being held accountable for the thousands of deaths each year that result from the sale of alcohol & tobacco. However, I'm not looking forward to paying fines for the incompetance of public servants through my rates & taxes. Remember, when government departments or councils pay compensation or fines, those of us who actually are net contributers to the coffers are the ones who ultimately pick up the tab.As there is a "personal responsibilty" component to H&S, perhaps the government should also look at fines & imprisonment for the considerable health damage individuals do through their poor decision making (as with cigaretes, alcohol, poor diet, having more children than they can afford to feed & clothe etc.), as we also pick up the tab for the health consequences of these decisions. Perhaps that's too hard to swallow, and we should just expect big companies & the government to be held accountable, whilst the rest of us continue to live our lives in an irresponsible, negligent manner. Some may call that hippocracy, but I call it the NZ way...
6/12/2012 9:39:17 p.m.
More vague assertions from big business' best buddy, the Smiling Assassin. No way this will happen under a National government.
6/12/2012 8:41:10 p.m.
As long as it includes the goverment and councils id go for it. Although it is hard enough to get a decision out of them now imagine what it would be like if they were accountable for there decisions, theyd never get anything done.
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