This is a single section from Chapter 24. Read the full chapter here.

Who should be punished?

Legislation must identify who will be liable to criminal conviction and in what circumstances they will be liable.

Legislation should be very clear about which people are potentially liable for the criminal offence—that is, whether “any person” is potentially liable or only a particular subset of people.

Criminal liability may be imposed on an individual or a body corporate. The meaning of “person” includes, by default, a corporation sole, a body corporate, and an unincorporated body, unless specific case law or legislation states differently.[1]

In relation to corporate liability, unless the legislation specifies otherwise, the general rule is that a director or member of a corporation (for example, a shareholder of a company) is not vicariously liable for the acts of the corporation (but could be liable as a secondary party if he or she knew of the offending and encouraged or assisted it). However, a corporation may be vicariously liable for the acts of its employees or agents. A corporation can also be directly liable if the acts of an employee or agent can be attributed to it.


[1] Legislation Act 2019, section 13.

This page was last modified on