Hot off the heels of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 (ECCTA) receiving Royal Assent, earlier this month the Criminal Justice Bill was introduced to Parliament (Bill and Explanatory Notes). The Bill proposes reforms to various aspects of criminal law, including a further expansion of the 'identification principle’ to allow criminal liability to be attributed to companies and partnerships whose ‘senior managers’ commit any criminal offences while acting within the actual or apparent scope of their authority. Senior manager is defined as an individual who plays a significant role in: (i) the making of decisions about how the whole or a substantial part of the activities of the body corporate or partnership are to be managed or organised; or (ii) the managing or organising of the whole or a substantial part of those activities.
The Bill would repeal and replace a provision just introduced by the ECCTA and which is due to come into force on 26 December 2023. As we have explained in our blog, that provision of the ECCTA expands the identification principle to provide that the actions of ‘senior managers’ can be attributed to an organisation for the purposes of establishing liability for certain listed economic crime offences against that organisation. Previously, an organisation could generally only be found criminally liable for misconduct committed by individuals that could be identified as its ‘directing mind and will’. The ECCTA therefore provides a new statutory route to corporate liability for certain specified offences and enables the misconduct of a larger class of senior representatives to be attributed to an organisation.
The Bill goes further than the ECCTA and expands this new statutory route by applying to any criminal offences committed by senior managers (the definition of senior manager in the Bill is the same as in the ECCTA). For more on the identification principle and its widening under the ECCTA, see our recent blog: Preparing senior managers for reformed corporate criminal liability.