New opportunity in the Justice campaign

September 22, 2016 - Emilie Schultze, Campaigns Officer

New Prime Minister, new government, new opportunities to get our message about justice onto the political agenda. Since 2014, Traidcraft has been campaigning for changes in the law so that British businesses can be prosecuted for harming people abroad.

Now we have a new opportunity to get the government to respond to our call.

This autumn, the government will hold a consultation on how to prosecute companies for economic crimes, like fraud and money laundering. The consultation will ask whether a new piece of legislation should be introduced that makes it possible to prosecute companies for failing to prevent these economic crimes.

Now, you might ask, what does this have to do with the Justice campaign?

Quite a lot, actually. Economic crimes and harm to people often go hand in hand and they are driven by the same desire to make profit at any expense. And just like economic crimes, direct harm to people in developing countries tends to go unpunished because the tools to prosecute the people responsible are lacking. It is this gap in legal accountability that Traidcraft is campaigning to close.

And this is where the government consultation comes in. By using the “failure to prevent” model, the responsibility for corporate crimes is shifted towards those at the very top. It means that if abuses take place, the company itself can be prosecuted unless senior executives can prove that there were procedures in place to prevent those abuses from happening - rather than blaming suppliers or junior members of staff.

So, for example, if a British company didn’t do enough to address toxic pollution coming from its copper smelting factory (see our video here), the company itself might be prosecuted for failing to prevent serious injuries arising from this pollution. This would not only bring justice to the people affected, but also provide a strong incentive to do the right thing in the first place.

And that’s why we are asking Theresa May to widen the consultation to include a wider range of corporate crimes, including causing deaths, serious injury and widespread pollution. The Prime Minister has said herself that she wants to tackle irresponsible behaviour by big businesses – now we need to make sure she puts her words into practice.

So, if you haven’t done it, please email Theresa May and ask her to extend the government consultation.

Thanks so much!