A review carried out by the Sentencing Council and published on 13th November suggests tougher sentences are needed for fatal health and safety offences, as well as corporate manslaughter. Any accident or injury in the workplace where the employer is found to be negligible is highly distressing but nothing more so than incidents that end in a fatality.
Tougher fines of up to £10 million for fatal health and safety offences and up to £20 million for corporate manslaughter have been proposed, with the levels aimed at organisations with an annual turnover of more than £50 million but will be scaled to the turnover of companies of all sizes.
The new proposals have come about after a series of event which have seen the Court of Appeal require to review the principles of sentencing corporate offenders in both environmental and health and safety offences. The issue has been ensuring the fine issued is enough of a punishment to the firm in question to demonstrate and highlight the importance of the unacceptability of the breach of regulations and in many cases, loss of life. This proposal suggests the level of the fine should be based upon the financial circumstances of the offender and the extent of the breach as well as the human consequences.
If the proposals are enacted, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 will also allow magistrates to impose unlimited fines for particular offences. Offences in this category include health and safety, food safety and hygiene offences. This should see a fairer and proportionate rate of fining rather than set rates which may or may not have any punitive effect on the offender.
The council has stated that fine levels should be deemed large enough to have an economic impact that will highlight the importance of operating in a safe environment. Where the fine is imposed on a charity or public body there are suggestions that it will be lowered if the organisation can prove the fine will negatively impact on their ability to keep up their provision of services.
The consultation on these new draft guidelines is open from 13th November until 18th February and should hopefully ensure that more proportional fines and sentences are imposed on those who are responsible for the most serious corporate food, hygiene and health and safety offences.
We regularly work with clients who have suffered serious accidents and injuries in the workplace and whilst we deal with personal injury compensation, we don’t believe the perpetrators should be allowed to continue without punishment from the courts. These new proposals will help ensure safety guidelines are tightened and less companies are willing to take a risk.