New health and safety fines proposed

A Sentencing Council review has proposed that large organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter should incur heavier fines of up to £20m in England and Wales.

Under the guidelines, health and safety incidents which result in death could also see fines of £10m handed out.

Michael Caplan QC, a member of the Sentencing Council, said the proposals would ensure that “these crimes don’t pay”.

“Businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that play by the rules and do their best to keep people safe,” he said in comments reported by the BBC.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2013-14 there were 133 cases of fatal injuries at work. 70 members of the public also incurred injuries in work-related accidents.

Current guidance is “vague”

The Sentencing Council review concludes that there is currently a “lack of comprehensive guidance”. An absence of rules defining upper limits for fines or starting points means organisations often end up being under-penalised.

Mr Caplan QC added: “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 has no legislative powers. As such, its guidelines must sit within current legal limits. The Sentencing Council proposes:

  • That starting points and ranges for fines should be set out in guidelines, taking into consideration the offenders and the seriousness of the offence to ensure “proportionate sentences”
  • Weighing up the financial means of the offender when considering fines

The consultation period runs from 13th November until 18th February.

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