From 1st February 2016 all courts must comply with new guidelines when sentencing offenders following health and safety, corporate manslaughter, food safety and hygiene offences.
In order to determine a structure, range and starting point the guidance sets out a range of sentences for each type of offence and within each offence an number of categories reflecting the varying degrees of seriousness and finally the sentences appropriate to them.
For organisations where there is a breach of duty to employees or non-employees under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) or breaches of regulations fines can range from £50 – £100 million.
Determining the offence category introduces four levels of culpability ranging from very high to low.
A deliberate breach or flagrant disregard of the law is considered as very high whilst an offender falling just short of an appropriate standard as an isolated incident or where there was no warning indicating a risk would be regarded as low.
The court then has to decide upon the level of seriousness and likelihood of harm occurring – very much in line with the risk assessment process.
Thereafter the court is required to focus upon the organisation’s annual turnover to reach a starting point for the fine. At the top end of the scale where a large company with turnover above £50 million is found to have a very high culpability for an offence where there was a high likelihood of death or physical impairment the starting point is £4 million.
For smaller companies with a turnover between £2 million and £10 million the starting point for a similar offence would be £450,000.
On top of this remains the threat of imprisonment. For an individual convicted under the same set of circumstances the starting point is 18 month’s custody.
For corporate manslaughter the courts retain the right to impose unlimited fines on indictment.
For further advice on how to ensure your organisation is compliant, please do not hesitate to contact us.