New Sentencing Guidelines come into effect in February 2016. Is your business ready?
The Sentencing Council’s new guidelines aim to ensure a consistent approach to health and safety, corporate manslaughter, and food safety and hygiene cases, and will lead to a more severe response to these cases, and potentially higher fines.
Company directors who are found guilty of “consent, connivance or neglect” in relation to an offence could face unlimited fines, as well as up to 2 years in prison.
Serious health and safety breaches could result in fines exceeding £10million, and corporate manslaughter cases could exceed £20million.
Different fine ranges will apply depending on the size of the organisation. However it’s entirely possible that the fines could be of sufficient size to put a company out of business, which may be decided to be an acceptable consequence, if the offence is severe enough.
When a fine is being decided, the court will consider the overall seriousness of the offence based on the offender’s culpability and the risk of serious harm, even if no harm was actually caused. They will also take into account various factors including, amongst others, whether the business has:
- any previous convictions
- taken action to improve the situation
- co-operated with the investigation
- a history of relevant offences
- committed the offence for the purpose of financial gain.
It is clear that the regulatory authorities expect companies to take positive action, and really prioritise health and safety issues. And although the guidelines will apply only to England and Wales, health and safety law is generally consistent across the UK, so it’s likely that Scotland will follow suit and implement tougher fines.
This news is a timely reminder to ensure that your business is compliant with all the relevant Health and Safety legislation, and that your H&S management systems are truly effective. Taking action now could protect the financial standing of your business.
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