From 1 February 2016 courts are required to follow new guidelines when sentencing organisations and individuals for:
- Health and safety offences
- Corporate manslaughter and fatal incidents
- Food hygiene and food safety offences
The guidelines require courts to set the level of fine by balancing a number of factors including culpability, level of harm and the size of the company based on its turnover.
For example, where a “very highly culpable” small sized organisation (defined as a turnover or equivalent of between £2million and £10million) commits a health and safety offence which results in death, the starting point for the fine will be £450,000.
In the case of a medium sized organisation (with a turnover of between £10million and £50million) the starting point would be £1.6million.
The guidelines have been introduced to ensure that courts impose penalties that are consistent and sentences that have a “real economic impact” on management and shareholders in an effort to underline the consequences of offending.
Given the punitive nature of the sentences businesses are well advised to implement health and safety procedures to protect staff and others affected by their activities and to seek advice if they have reason to believe a health and safety offence may have been committed.