Last edited 02 Dec 2020

Health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences definitive guideline

On 3 November 2015 the Sentencing Council published Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline. This provides new guidance for sentencing in relation to health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene. It was issued following a consultation to ensure a consistent, fair and proportionate approach to sentencing and came into effect on 1 February 2016.

Offences covered by the guidance could, for example, include contractors that cause the death of an employee by not providing proper equipment, a manufacturer that causes injury to a new worker by not providing proper training, or a gas fitter whose work leads to the risk of an explosion.

The guidance sets out sentencing ranges that reflect different levels of risk of harm that can result from offences. While prison sentences are available for individuals convicted of very serious offences, most are committed by organisations that can only be fined. In most cases the new guidance will not result in significantly higher fines, however, some offenders will receive higher penalties, for example, an organisation deliberately breaking the law and creating a high risk of death or serious injury.

This is intended to ensure fines properly reflect the crimes committed. The sentencing ranges also take into account how culpable the offender was. This could range from minor failings in procedures to deliberately dangerous acts.

The guidance uses the turnover of the offender as the starting point for determining the fine, but must take into account other relevant financial information, such as profit margin, the potential impact on employees, the potential impact on the organisation’s ability to improve conditions or to make restitution to victims and so on. It also includes mitigating factors which allow for voluntary positive action to remedy a failure on the part of offenders to be reflected in sentences. Remedial orders can be made by the court where appropriate.

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said, “These guidelines will introduce a consistent approach to sentencing, ensuring fair and proportionate sentences for those who cause death or injury to their employees and the public or put them at risk. These offences can have very serious consequences and it is important that sentences reflect these.”

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