Centre for National Corporate Law Research, University of Canberra
Place of publication
In a 2001 Issues Paper entitled 'Sentencing: Corporate Offenders', the New South Wales Law Reform Commission outlined a number of reasons for not ascribing liability to individuals within a corporation for unlawful acts arising from the operation of the corporation. One of the reasons raised in the Issues Paper, a reason traditionally used to avoid liability being imposed on individuals for corporate crimes, is that it is conceptually difficult to look behind the form to the substance of a corporate crime in order to establish liability for individual acts, when on the surface the unlawful conduct was caused by a corporation as a collective body. In this article, the authors challenge this position by suggesting that the doctrine of complicity can be used to [*2] pierce the corporate veil and direct criminal liability to those individuals who control the actions of the company. This proposition that company officers can be found liable pursuant to the principles regarding accessorial responsibility is not novel. However, what is unusual is the infrequency with which this wide ranging doctrine is applied in the corporate setting. The focus of this article is to underline the relevance of this doctrine to corporate offenders and, in the process, to assert that the problems of punishing corporate offenders are in principle no different to punishing other crimes which are committed by more than the one offender and can be addressed by the proper application of existing legal principles.
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