New sentencing guidelines issued for health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food prosecutions
Following a consultation issued earlier this year, the Sentencing Council has published guidelines to Crown and Magistrates courts for sentencing health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety offences. Offences are now graded by reference to offender culpability and offence harm. The grade is then related to the turnover of the offending business to provide a penalty range, within which the court will fix the fine using prescribed aggravating and mitigating factors.
The overall effect is likely to be an increase in the size of fines imposed, particularly for large corporates with annual turnovers in excess of £50m, where, following similar guidelines introduced last year for environmental offences, some eye-wateringly large fines have been imposed. The maximum fine for a large corporate convicted of corporate manslaughter is set at £20m, but the guidelines warn that even this would need to be increased for a business with a turnover greatly in excess of £50m.
For micro businesses (under £2m annual turnover), whilst the recommended fine ranges are much lower, the fines at the top end of each range are significantly higher when viewed as a percentage of turnover than for large businesses, despite the professed aim of these guidelines to remove that sort of inequality.