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Police Warn Fleets About New Manslaughter Act

30 Dec 2008

"Following a death involving an at-work driver, fleet managers can expect an immediate
and in-depth investigation by the police."

A police forensic collision investigator has reaffirmed warnings from legal experts that the police will investigate at-work road deaths as if they were murders under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act.

Following a death involving an at-work driver, fleet mangers can expect an immediate and in-depth investigation by the police.

"You will feel like you are being treated like a criminal," warned David Kirk, a forensic investigator for Kent Police.

"And that is because it is a criminal investigation. We will investigate a road death starting with the most serious offence of murder and then work down."

Last week a leading barrister, who specialises in health and safety law, warned fleet managers that they will be vigorously investigated under the new Act, which came into force in April.

"Fleets are a relatively easy target...at-work road deaths will be investigated much more aggressively by the police," said Gerard Forlin, a barrister at Gray's Inn Square, London.

Following an at-work road death, managers can expect homes and offices to be raided, computers and documents to be seized and a thorough investigation of policies, procedures and checks on areas ranging from vehicle maintenance to licence checking and drink and drug screening.

Mr Kirk also indicated during his address at the Fleet News Hit for Six Conference in Oxford last week that the police are keen to reduce the number of road crashes involving fatigued drivers who may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

This is clearly an area that will come under scrutiny during any Corporate Manslaughter investigation and fleet managers must ensure adequate journey planning procedures are in place.

In addition, policies on the use of mobile phones - including hands-free - will be a significant part of an investigation.

"If a driver is using a phone, his risk of causing a collision rises by 400% - that's the same as if he were over the drink drive limit."

While Mr Kirk said organisations that have the right procedures in place will not be prosecuted, he had a sobering warning for those that find themselves being investigated and subsequently charged.

"This is very dangerous water for defendants," he said.

The Hit for Six Conference comes to Bradford on September 30. Risk management will once more be a key topic, alongside grey and green fleet management, effective purchasing and driver policies. 

News source: Courtesy of Ogilvie Fleet Limited