New Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety Offences

Offenders could pay up to £10 million

Posted on: 04/11/2015   By: Lee Rance

The Sentencing Council has recently issued new guidelines for the courts when sentencing cases of corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences. The guidance comes into effect on the 1st February 2016 and will still apply regardless of the date of the offence.

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The current guidance covers fatalities at work whereas the new guidance extends to all health and safety offences. There has been limited guidance for judges and magistrates in dealing with what can be complex and serious offences that do not come before the courts as frequently as some other criminal offences. The new guidelines, which are for England and Wales only, are much more comprehensive, the Sentencing Council said.

The Consultation was launched because it was felt in the past, some offenders did not receive fines that properly reflected the crimes they committed. It wants fines to be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the means of offenders.

Large organisations committing serious offences can expect to pay significantly higher fines; up to £20 million for corporate manslaughter and up to £10 million for health and safety offences.

The guidelines use the turnover of the offender to identify the starting point of the fine, but say that additional relevant financial information, such as profit margin, should also be taken into account. Offending companies will be placed in one of four bands depending on turnover:

  • micro (with a turnover of up to £2 million)
  • small (a turnover of between £2 million and £10 million);
  • medium (up to £50 million)
  • large (more than £50 million)

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said:

These guidelines will introduce a consistent approach to sentencing, ensuring fair and proportionate sentences for those who cause death or injury to their employees and the public or put them at risk. These offences can have very serious consequences and it is important that sentences reflect these.

Fine levels, the Sentencing Council said, should be large enough to have an economic impact that would bring home to an organisation the importance of operating in a safe environment.

For individuals found guilty of a breach of duty to their employees, the guidelines say judges can send company managers or directors to prison for up to two years in the most serious cases.

Until next time.

Lee Rance