Potentially significantly larger fines are just around the corner.
Any companies or individuals sentenced for Health & Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter (and also Food Safety & Hygiene Offences) will soon be subject to a new sentencing Guideline that sets out the way in which penalties for various offences will be structured and calculated.
It comes into force for companies and individuals aged 18 or above sentenced on or after 1st February 2016. The most commonly sentenced health and safety and food safety offences are included in the comprehensive guidance to be found here.
The Guideline points out that "any fines should be such that they powerfully bring home to business owners and shareholders the consequences of compromising safety and putting employees or other third parties at risk".
Where applicable, the guidelines separate out penalties to be imposed on individual offenders and organisations that have offended. As the name suggests, only corporate bodies are capable of being charged with corporate manslaughter.
The guideline is designed to apply to all offences from the most to the least serious, and it is expected that there will be a significant increase in fines in the most serious cases. Many offences can now be dealt with by unlimited fines in the Magistrates Court. The guideline recommends very small scale fines for minor offences, up to potential fines of up to £20m in the most severe Corporate Manslaughter cases (for companies with a turnover exceeding £50m).
In reaching any final decision on sentence, a Court will have to first consider the culpability of the offender and both the actual and risk of harm caused by the offence.
In setting the level of any fine, the Court will also have regard to financial evidence provided. In the absence of any evidence being provided, the Court can assume that the offender is able to pay any fine imposed. For offenders potentially facing fines that may run to thousands, if not millions, of pounds, the importance of providing full financial information cannot be overstated.
For further information or advice, please contact a member of our Regulatory team on (Cambridge) 01223 411421 or (Milton Keynes) 01908 202150.