April 9, 2019

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Sentencing guidelines

Larger firms face biggest fine increases: Sentencing Council impact assessment shows

The average fine handed to organisations found guilty of safety offences has risen since the new sentencing guidelines were introduced, according to figures published by the Sentencing Council. In particular, there has been a considerable increase in fines for larger organisations.

justice statueThis had been anticipated, it says, following the introduction of the new sentencing guidelines.

An impact assessment of the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences guideline for England and Wales, which came into force in 2016, also shows an increase in fines for:

  • Food safety and hygiene offences for organisations, but 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 a number of unanticipated changes including:

  • An increase in fines for smaller organisations and individuals (which was not anticipated) sentenced for health and safety offences;
  • A change in the use of some sentence types 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 way it was intended.  The Council says it has considered this analysis, particularly the findings in relation to the fines imposed on smaller organisations and individuals. The Council adds that it intends to investigate further the operation of the guideline in due course, and will consider at that stage whether any revision needed.

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.”

Business activity

Prior to the Sentencing Council’s guideline coming into force in February 2016, a guideline produced in 2010 by the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) was in use for organisations sentenced for corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences causing death.

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.
  • Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1.

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