New Sentencing Guidelines – Consistency at Last?
- Date: Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Earlier this year the Sentencing Council for England and Wales published a consultation on draft sentencing guidelines for health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences.
It is anticipated that the definitive guidelines and the consultation response are to be published in later this month.
What makes the new guidance more significant is that on 12 March 2015, section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into effect. Under the legislation, fines which had limits of £5,000 or more in Magistrates’ Courts (e.g. £20,000 for many health and safety offences) became unlimited in England and Wales.
When the new sentencing guidelines are published, it is expected that this power to impose larger fines will become fully harnessed. Indeed, the Sentencing Council has stated that this increased power was a key reason for the creation of the new guidelines (in order to “assist magistrates in applying fair and proportionate sentences when their new fining powers come into effect”).
According to the draft proposals, where a “very highly culpable” medium-sized organisation (defined as having turnover or equivalent of between £10 million and £50 million) commits a health and safety offence which causes death, the starting point for the fine may be £1.6m.
Interestingly, where a medium sized business is convicted of a serious corporate manslaughter offence, the starting point for the fine may be £3m.
By the Sentencing Council’s own admission, for health and safety offences which do not cause death, the guidance which currently exists is only piecemeal. Therefore, the new advice (which will make recommendations for the full range of offences – by individuals as well as organisations) could provide an important step in ensuring a consistent approach in the sentencing of health and safety crimes.
Source: SHP Online