Legal wranglings in Europe

Professor Gobert, of the School of Law, explains: 'Events over the past decade have heightened awareness of the harm that can be caused by companies and other organisations carrying out activities in a reckless or negligent manner.

Corporate misconduct can result in economic loss on a massive scale (eg Enron), as well as physical injuries and even death (like the Concord crash in France and rail accidents at Southall, Paddington and Hatfield in the UK). Failed prosecutions have highlighted the inadequacy of traditional criminal law for coping with corporate fault.'

'In response, new laws have been enacted to address the problem of corporate wrongdoing in many European countries. This includes the UK with the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, as well as France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland. Yet other countries, such as Germany, continue to adhere to an administrative law approach where companies cannot be prosecuted for serious criminal offences.'

Professor Gobert continues: 'Although in our new world of globalisation, there is significant interest on the part of NGOs, trade unions, governments and international businesses in how alleged corporate criminal liability should be dealt with, there is little published work in this area. To the best of our knowledge, no book that undertaken a comparative analysis of corporate criminal liability in Europe. The overall purpose of this British Academy research grant is to produce a book comparing how the laws of different European jurisdictions hold organisations to account for serious harm and how offences are investigated, prosecuted and sentenced.'

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Victoria Bartholomew alfa

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