Workplace manslaughter sentences set to be increased

Tuesday 30 June 2020

By Tess McPhail, Graduate

The Victorian Government has recently passed a new law to increase workplace manslaughter sentences. Here’s what you need to know:

On 4 June 2020, the Crimes Amendment (Manslaughter and Related Offences) Bill 2020 (Vic) was passed in Victoria.  The new law increases the maximum penalty for workplace manslaughter from 20 years to 25 years imprisonment.

What is workplace manslaughter?

In 2019, the Victorian Government introduced workplace manslaughter as a criminal offence.

These changes were brought about under the Workplace Safety Legislation Amendment (Workplace Manslaughter and Other Matters) Bill 2019, which is due to commence no later than 1 July 2020.

Under the new law, workplace manslaughter refers to conduct that –

  1. Is negligent; and
  2. Constitutes a breach of an applicable duty that a person owes to another person; and
  3. Causes the death of that other person.

The maximum penalty for workplace manslaughter was originally set at 20 years imprisonment.

The Victorian Government’s decision to increase the maximum penalty to 25 years imprisonment, ahead of the 1 July commencement date, sends a clear message that preventing workplace deaths is a top priority.  

Who does it apply to?

Individuals, corporations, unincorporated bodies, associations and partnerships can all be charged with workplace manslaughter.

However, it must be shown that their conduct was ‘negligent’.  In other words, that there was “a great falling short of the standard of care that would have been taken by a reasonable person” and there was a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness.

Interestingly, workplace manslaughter may even apply when death occurs long after the relevant incident.  For example, when an employee develops asbestos or silicosis related diseases later in life.

What are the penalties?

The new laws will allow Courts to impose whopping fines of up to $16.5 million for corporations and $1.65 million for officers.

Additionally, the new laws also allow Courts to impose maximum penalties of 25 years imprisonment.

It is hoped that these tough new penalties will encourage employers and their officers to improve the safety standards within their organisations and promote safer workplaces for all.  

If you or one of your loved ones has been injured at work, you can contact our lawyers on (03) 9321 9988 for a free initial consultation.

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