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UK: Companies’ failure to prevent human rights abuses by subsidiaries or suppliers should be a criminal offence says Parliament committee

Author: Katherine Tyler & Sophia Kerridge, Kingsley Napley, in Law Society Gazette (UK), Published on: 19 June 2017

"Climate Change on Corporate Behaviour", 19 Jun 2017

...[T]he Joint Committee on Human Rights has asked the government to bring forward legislation criminalising one aspect of corporate behaviour that has hitherto been only a reputational consideration for companies. The report asks for a new corporate offence of failing to prevent human rights abuses...

The committee proposes that this offence...would provide a defence for companies which can demonstrate that they had conducted effective human rights due diligence (as recommended by the [UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights]).

It might also have an extraterritorial effect and therefore catch the actions of companies outside the UK’s conventional jurisdictional boundaries.

To enable the proper enforcement of such an offence, the report recommends that ‘the prosecuting authorities are better trained and resourced in investigating breaches of human rights which are criminalised, including for cross-border crimes’....

This new offence, the report proposes, would catch those companies which did not comply with a new statutory obligation (also recommended by the report)  on all companies, including parent companies, to prevent human rights abuses, and which did not put in place effective human rights due diligence both for their subsidiaries and across their whole supply chains...

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