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    NEW RULES AIM FOR CONSISTENT H&S SENTENCES

    Massive financial penalty for serious offending by larger organisations

    The Sentencing Council (SC) has today (3 November 2015) published new sentencing guidelines corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety offences designed to ensure a “consistent, fair and proportionate approach to sentencing organisations or individuals”.

    Until now, 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 SC believes that introduction of the guidelines means that in some cases, offenders will receive higher penalties (particularly large organisations committing serious offences) such as when an organisation is convicted of deliberately breaking the law and creating a high risk of death or serious injury. The guidelines suggest the following ranges:

    • Corporate Manslaughter – £180,000 t0 £20,000,000
    • Health and Safety – £50,000 to £10,000,000
    • Individuals – Conditional Discharge to 2 years custody

    It is not anticipated that there will be higher fines across the board, or that they will be significantly higher in the majority of cases to those currently imposed.

    However, where the turnover or equivalent of an offending organisation very greatly exceeds the threshold for large organisations (£50m) it may be necessary to move outside the suggested range to achieve a proportionate sentence.

    Serious offending can expect increases

    The increase in penalties for serious offending has been introduced because in the past, some offenders did not receive fines that properly reflected the crimes they committed. The Council wants fines for these offences to be fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the means of offenders.

    In order to achieve this, the guidelines set out sentencing ranges that reflect the very different levels of risk of harm that can result from these offences. The sentencing ranges also take into account how culpable the offender was. This could range from minor failings in procedures to deliberately dangerous acts.

    Company turnover is starting point

    The guidelines use the turnover of the offender to identify the starting point of the fine. Turnover is used as this is a clear indicator that can be easily assessed.

    However, turnover is never the only factor taken into account. The guidelines require the court to “step back”, review and adjust the initial fine if necessary. It must take into account any additional relevant financial information, such as the profit margin of the organisation, the potential impact on employees, or potential impact on the organisation’s ability to improve conditions or make restitution to victims.

    This means sentences will always be tailored to the offender’s specific circumstances. Fines may move up or down or outside the ranges entirely as a result of these additional mandatory steps.

    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.”

    Following their publication today, the guidelines will come into force in courts on 1 February 2016.

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