Innocent Deaths and Regulatory Failure: A Case Study of Change in the Absence of Punishment
International Journal of the Sociology of Law. (1999) 27 (1): 23-50
28 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2014
Date Written: 1999
The Mistral fan deaths were yet another example of corporate harm which failed to result in criminal prosecution, or indeed any enforcement activity. Rather than analyse reasons for this failure, this paper traces what occurs in the absence of punishment. The study traces the framing of contributing factors uncovered through coronial investigation process, the compilation of recommendations for regulatory change and the fate of those recommendations once they entered the regulatory arena. The paper shows how the public outcry was translated by the coroner into issues of bureaucratic failure of the regulators, rather than the need for demanding punishment. Such an approach had some successes with certain reforms to the regulatory system made. However, general regulatory concerns revolved around the perceived failure of prescriptive regulatory regimes and the need to respond to government demands for free market policies and cost efficient regulation. Such concerns could either magnify, distort or ignore the lessons learnt from the deaths. The conclusions drawn demonstrate the importance of institutions which emphasize the value of social goals such as human health while questioning government enthusiasm for policies which give free rein to free market ideologies and economic evaluation of social regulation.
Keywords: Coronial Inquest, White Collar Crime, Product Safety, Organisational Change
JEL Classification: I18, K13, L68, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation