Sentencing Council review publishes new guidance on health and safety offences

by Direct 2 Lawyers on November 20, 2014

A Sentencing Council review has proposed that much tougher sentences for breaches of health and safety could be handed down.

The Sentencing Council, which has no legislative powers itself, has recommended that tougher sentences be given for corporate manslaughter offences and that greater fines should be imposed on businesses where health and safety offences result in a fatal accident.

The following was proposed by the Sentencing Council review, which also criticised the lack of “comprehensive guidance” available to judges when sentencing:

  • That large organisations committing corporate manslaughter could face increased fines of up to £20 million
  • That health and safety offences involving fatal accidents could carry fines of up to £10 million

The Sentencing Council review also addresses the lack of guidance available to judges on food safety and hygiene offences, as well as addressing how sentencers should approach the handing down of sentences in potentially wildly-varying circumstances: from small companies to large; where the gravity of the offence is minor to where it has potentially catastrophic effects; and where the offences are committed by individuals rather than organisations.

Examples of health and safety offences in the news recently include:

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC commented on the new Sentencing Council guidelines:  “Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties.”

The Sentencing Council’s proposals are currently open to consultation from members of the public and the guidelines can be found here.

Chris Hadrill, a settlement agreement solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the news: “There have been a number of cases involving corporate manslaughter and fatal accidents in the courts in the last year where organisations have been heavily fined as a result of health and safety breaches, although the level of those fines has generally not exceeded the million-pound mark; it is unclear, on that basis, how an increase in the level of the fines will result in tougher sentences, as judges already have the power to order organisations to pay potentially unrestricted fines.”

Direct 2 Lawyers offer advice to consumers and businesses, and have free templates on their website (such as grievance letter templates and disciplinary appeal templates)

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