Grade Booster exam workshops for 2024. Join us in to Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle Book now

In the News

An overview of Corporate Manslaughter and the case of Lucy Letby

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

13th December 2023

Lucy Letby, the former neonatal nurse was jailed in August for the murder of seven babies and attempted murder of six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital. Now Cheshire Police have decided to investigate the hospital for corporate manslaughter, looking at the role of senior leaders in their decision making, to determine if any criminality took place. There will be consideration of whether the actions of senior leaders fell below what could be reasonably expected of them, so that Letby was able to murder those seven babies.

The offence of corporate manslaughter takes the idea that organisations can be responsible for causing the death of individuals where is there is a serious failing of a duty of care owed by that organisation, and senior management were instrumental in that breach.

For s.1(1) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 outlines the offence as follows:

An organisation to which this section applies is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised

(a) causes a person's death, and

(b) amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.

The elements of the offence are as follows:

  1. The defendant must be a qualifying organisation – a corporation, a government department except from a Crown department, a police force, a partnership or trade union or employers association which is also an employer. A hospital is caught within this definition.
  2. The organisation must have owed a relevant duty of care to the deceased -this includes duties owed to employees or other people working for the organisation or whom thy are responsible for the safety of, a duty as an occupier of premises, a duty in connection with the supply of goods or services, commercial activities, construction or maintenance operations or keeping plant or machinery. The Countess of Chester Hospital did owe a duty of care to the babies in their care in the neonatal unit and their families.
  3. There must then be a gross breach of this duty of care. This must be far below what can reasonably be expected in the circumstances. Was more expected of the Countess of Chester Hospital to safeguard the babies in their care?
  4. This gross breach must have come from senior managers who have played a significant role in the decision making or managing or organising of activities which have led to this event. This may be the most difficult area to prove.
  5. This mut have caused the death of the victim

Again, looking at the conduct of the most prolific child serial killer in modern Britain this will no doubt bring fresh anguish to the families of the victims, however do lessons need to be learnt to safeguard the lives of others in the future?

Comprehension Questions

1. According to the text, why are Cheshire Police investigating the Countess of Chester Hospital for corporate manslaughter in connection with Lucy Letby's case?

2. Explain the key elements of the offence of corporate manslaughter as outlined in s.1(1) of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

3. How does the text define a qualifying organisation in the context of corporate manslaughter, and does the Countess of Chester Hospital fall under this definition?

4. What are the main criteria that must be met for an organisation to be guilty of corporate manslaughter?

5. Discuss the challenges involved in proving corporate manslaughter, particularly in relation to the role of senior managers and the requirement of a gross breach of duty of care.

Research and Discuss...

1. What is the maximum sentence for corporate manslaughter?

2. How has the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 differed from previous legislation where companies were able to hide behind the “corporate veil” in investigations?

3. Find an example of another corporate manslaughter investigation.

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.