chapter  13
16 Pages

THE REFORM OF CORPORATE CRIMINAL LIABILITY

1 INTRODUCTION

Companies, as legal persons, are subjects of criminal law just as natural persons are. However, this simple picture is complicated by changes in the nature and role of business corporations in modern economies and by a number of conceptual difficulties. A conventional account would emphasise the conceptual challenges involved in applying criminal laws to the corporation. Vicarious liability, the device deployed in civil law to render a company liable for the acts of its employees, is of limited application in criminal law. Routes over and around this obstacle have taken two main forms: the introduction of regulatory offences specifically directed at businesses and, secondly, the development of new tools to bridge the conceptual gap between the actions of individual managers and employees and the idea of the ‘company’. In recent times, corporate manslaughter has been the main focus of debate but it is important not to lose sight of the significance of criminal sanctions in the regulatory and supervisory schemes, many dating back to the 19th century, addressed specifically to business enterprises.