Be careful - proposed new penalties could put you out of business

There is a new and worrying feel about the level of fines that may be imposed for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter.  The Sentencing Council (the independent organisation for reviewing sentencing guidelines for Courts) has published a consultation document with a view to providing more relevant sentences when offences are committed.

Courts would initially look at the seriousness of the offence, its category, depending on the degree of culpability and risk of harm. There is then a starting point for the fine which can be lifted or lowered depending on what the extra extenuating circumstances are. For Health and Safety offences these are limited but, as an example, the highest increase in fine would arise if there was a deliberate breach and flagrant disregard for the law. 

Additionally previous convictions, cost cutting, concealment, falsification of documents and more will raise the fine while, no previous convictions, evidence of steps to rectify the problem, cooperation with the investigation, effective Health and Safety procedures etc will reduce it.

The Court then reviews the accounts of a business to understand what profit levels are in place. But note, that in some circumstances the level of fine will put the offender out of business, which in some cases may be considered an acceptable consequence!

The consultation ends on 18 February 2015.
 

Authors: Dennis Chapman

Published: 08 Dec 2014

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