Sentencing Guideline Impact Assessment
The Health & Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety Offences Definitive Sentencing Guideline came into force in February 2016.
rradar solicitor Jeff Swales takes a look at the effect of the Guideline over the last three years.
Fines for large organisations sentenced for health and safety offences have increased as had been anticipated and intended.
Prior to the introduction of the guideline the mean fine for a health & safety offence was £40,000. This has since increased to £221,000. The median fine prior to the introduction of the guideline was £12,000. This has increased to £60,000.
The Impact Assessment also shows an increase in fines for:
Food safety and hygiene offences for organisations, although the increase was less pronounced than that for health and safety offences.
Corporate manslaughter offences, but due to low volumes this finding should be treated with caution.
There were some unexpected changes including:
An increase in fines for smaller organisations and individuals sentenced for health and safety offences.
An increase in the use of suspended sentences of imprisonment for individuals sentenced for health and safety offences.
A small increase in fines for individuals sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences.
Analysis carried out by the Sentencing Council of Crown Court judges’ sentencing remarks suggests that the guideline is generally being applied in the manner intended. The Council has considered this analysis, particularly the findings in relation to the fines imposed on smaller organisations and individuals. The Council intends to investigate further the operation of the guideline in due course and will consider at that stage whether any revision of the guideline is necessary.
Sentencing Council Chairman Lord Justice Holroyde said:
“The law requires that any fine imposed must reflect the seriousness of the offence and take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. The Council is confident the guideline is achieving this objective and ensuring that where an offence results in the loss of life or very serious injury, fines are sufficiently punitive.”
The guidelines cover offences committed by organisations or individuals in the course of their business activities in England and Wales. They do not cover prosecutions of individuals for offences committed in the course of their private lives and do not cover food fraud offences.The guideline covers the following offences:
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA); section 33(1)(a) in relation to breaches of section 2, section 3 and section 7; and section 33(1)(c);
Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19(1);
Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17(1);
The General Food Regulations 2004, regulation 4; and
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1.
To find out more about the Health and Safety guideline, follow this link: https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Health-and-safety-guideline-assessment.pdf
It’s clear from this that health and safety offences have an even greater capacity to inflict very serious financial harm on organisations found guilty of regulatory breaches. We would urge all of our clients facing regulatory action or investigation to contact us as soon as possible to access our expert legal advice and representation, and to make use of the rradarstation web portal and advisors to access information and guidance which will enable them to devise, implement and maintain working practices and procedures which can prevent problems arising in the first place.