Proposed guidelines have been published today, which will assist sentencers dealing with corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety and hygiene offences.
They are being introduced due to a lack of comprehensive guidance in relation to such offences. Although there is already a guide covering corporate manslaughter and fatal health and safety offences, there is nothing specific on sentencing food safety or non-fatal health and safety offences. In addition, existing guidance only covers offences committed by organisations rather than individuals.
Similar to the guidelines for sentencing environmental offences which came into force in July, a range of fines is set for companies with different levels of annual turnover, which vary in relation to the seriousness of the offence and the level of organisational culpability.
For corporate manslaughter, a medium sized company with a turnover of between £10 million and £50 million could expect a fine with a “starting point” of £3 million for the most serious offence, ranging up to £7.5 million while the starting point for a less serious offence would be £2 million ranging up to £5 million. The current guidance sets a benchmark of just £500,000.
Very large companies, with turnovers substantially higher than £50 million, could see fines in excess of £20 million.
For offences prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 or other safety regulations, there is a more complex schedule, but a medium sized company with “medium culpability” for a serious incident would face a fine in the range £300,000 to £1.3 million.
Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said, “We want to ensure that these crimes don't pay. They can have extremely serious consequences and businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that maintain proper standards and do their best to keep people safe.
“Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties.”
The Sentencing Council is seeking views on its proposals through a consultation, which ends on 18 February 2015.
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