Mediating Punitiveness: Understanding Public Attitudes towards Work-Related Fatality Cases
It has been suggested that public opinion about crime and justice drives the adoption of harsher and more emotive criminal justice policy via a process of ‘penal populism’, as politicians are willing to respond uncritically.
This paper presents the findings of an investigation into public attitudes towards work-related fatality cases, situations where the activities of a corporation or organization have caused the death of a worker or member of the public. The commencement in early 2010 of manslaughter prosecutions against Continental Airlines in France following the Paris Concorde air crash of 2000, which resulted in 113 deaths, demonstrates the ongoing significance of debates about corporate homicide liability.
This investigation has found public attitudes in relation to such fatalities are primarily non punitive in nature, however respondents did regard offenders in moral terms. What is expressed is a desire for moral accountability, rather than for punishment. The findings can inform the ways in which processes of legal reform are approached. There is a need to consider the degree to which social attitudes towards regulation in different societies make ‘criminalization’ necessary or not, and to identify why some jurisdictions manage to survive without corporate criminal liability.