New Sentencing Guidelines | Health and Safety Offences

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New sentencing guidelines came into force in 2016 on Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene offences. They came into force in 2016 and apply to any relevant cases, on 1st February or after that date, irrespective of when the offence occurred.

The new guidelines represent a significant change of emphasis in the way offences are now dealt with. Previously companies or individuals were dealt with on the actual consequences of the offence, whereas now courts are focusing on the risk of harm.

David Lawson, head of Serious Crime at DRN said, “It is essential that organisations have a documented the procedure in place. Directors cannot avoid their responsibilities by delegation to someone else.”

The guidelines contain various signposts as to how to assess the appropriate fine. These include the seriousness of the harm created by the offence and the likelihood of harm arising. The courts look at the whether the offence exposed a number of workers or members of the public to the risk of harm and whether the offence caused actual harm.

Finally, companies are likely to hit hard by the approach to financial penalties. The court will now look at annual turnover. For example, a company with a turnover of 50 million involved in a case where death occurs could expect, as a starting point, a financial penalty of 4 million pounds.

David Lawson said, “The risks to companies and individuals is enormous. Unlimited fines and severe prison sentences can follow, particularly when an individual officer is found to be grossly negligent. This makes it essential that a thorough risk assessment is carried out. We frequently work with companies in that regard.”