Changes to culpable homicide regime proposed

A bill changing the law of culpable homicide by introducing two new offences has been introduced at Holyrood.

The bill would create two different statutory kinds of culpable homicide – culpable homicide where death is caused recklessly or by gross negligence.

These statutory offences are in addition to, and not in substitution for, the existing kinds of offence of culpable homicide at common law.

Culpable homicide is the term used in Scots law for an offence of causing the death of another person without planning or intending to. It is different to murder where there is criminal intention, and from causing death by an accident where no-one can be blamed. These new offences in the bill are in addition to the current law on culpable homicide. 

The bill aims to make sure a person, business or organisation who causes a death can be found guilty of a suitable offence. 

The rationale for suggesting the changes is that the current law does not seem to be able to apply in the same way to organisations and businesses of different sizes.

There have been very few cases of large businesses being prosecuted for culpable homicide where deaths have been caused by their actions. This is because it is hard to identify who in a large business controls the actions that lead to the death.

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