The government should allow a bill that would mean companies and state agencies could be held criminally liable for illegal killings to go forward, Fianna Fáil has said.
Mark Daly, the senator who introduced the bill in 2016, said that the jury retiring in the Hillsborough trial last week was a reminder that such a law was needed in Ireland.
David Duckenfield, the South Yorkshire police officer in charge of the match in 1989, and Graham Mackrell, the Sheffield Wednesday club secretary at the time, both deny charges of gross negligence in their duties on the day that 95 Liverpool fans died.
There is no Irish legislation providing for the offence of corporate manslaughter. “This is a timely reminder of the need for corporate responsibility as we have seen many times before, unfortunately through tragedy,” Mr Daly said. “This bill is about addressing the current gap which exists within Irish law that fails to hold corporate entities and state agencies criminally liable for unlawful deaths that occurred as a result of their actions or negligence.”
He accused the government of trying to stall the progress of his bill. A review by the Department of Justice highlighted a number of issues.
The bill followed a 2015 report by the Law Reform Commission, which identified a gap in Irish legislation.
Mr Daly said: “The uniqueness of this legislation introduced by Fianna Fáil is to be found in Section 2, where a corporation can be convicted if found guilty of gross negligence even if no one person in the corporation can be said to be responsible. The bill will also allow for a prison term to be handed down if a court deems it necessary.
“I believe it is time for this bill to be put on the statute book. I believe that the real impact of passing this legislation will be felt by a change in outlook and approach among senior management. If they can be held accountable for their actions or their failure to act, it may cause them to think and care more about their actions.”
The bill would bring in the indictable offence of “grossly negligent management causing death” by a high managerial agent of a company where a company is convicted of corporate manslaughter.
The bill proposes that a company could be fined for a breach while an individual found guilty could be jailed for up to 12 years.
Catherine Noone, a Fine Gael senator, told the Seanad last week that a number of issues in the bill needed to be clarified. “They include the range of bodies to which the bill would apply, the range of unincorporated bodies to which the bill would apply, the legal ingredients of any offence, including who would be liable within an organisation, [and] exemptions to any offence, she said. “Those matters continue to be considered and they have wide-ranging implications for all organisations, as the senator noted, including voluntary bodies providing a service to the public”.
Ms Noone said that officials from the Department of Justice would meet Mr Daly soon.