The definitive sentencing guideline for use in courts in England and Wales on health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences. will come into force on 1st February 2016, and will apply regardless of the date of the offence. It will give judges a framework of tiered penalties for different sizes of organisation, level of harm risked and culpability.
The new guidance, Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline, issued by the Sentencing Council will extend to all health and safety offences – currently the guidance just covers fatalities. The guidance has been modelled on the sentencing guideline for environmental offences, which was introduced in July 2014. This means that large companies could face fines of over £10 million for the most serious health and safety offences and more than £20 million for corporate manslaughter convictions.
Once the court has established a starting point using these factors, it must take into account financial information, such as the profit margin of the organisation or the potential impact on employees, and any aggravating or mitigating factors. The guideline specifies offence ranges:
- a range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence
- within each offence, it specifies a number of categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness
- the offence range is also split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness
Launching the consultation on the guidelines a year ago the council said that, in the past, some offenders did not receive fines that properly reflected the crimes they committed. It wants fines to be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the means of offenders. The council says it received more than 100 responses to the consultation but the final guideline mirrors last year’s draft.
Offending companies will be placed in one of four bands depending on turnover:
- micro (with a turnover of up to £2m)
- small (a turnover of between £2 million and £10 million)
- medium (up to £50 million)
- large (more than £50 million).
The guidance can be found on the Sentencing Council website.