A short consultation into inadequate sentencing measures related to injuries and loss of life caused by an offence committed in health and safety or food safety and hygiene is about to come to an end on February 18th 2015.
The Sentencing Council (SC), an independent body, which produces sentencing guidelines for the courts, launched the consultation entitled, ‘Health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences guidelines’, in November 2014.
Guidelines devised by a previous consultation published in 2010 by SC predecessor, the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC), still lack provision for the sentencing of offences not causing death and offences committed by individuals, as opposed to organisations.
Consequently, courts have been left to rely upon the Magistrates Court Sentencing Guidelines and authorities from the Court of Appeal, generally viewed as “unsystematic.” As a result of the different sentencing outcomes for similar types of offences, one of the primary aims of the new guidance is to address the lack of specific guidance in health and safety / food safety and hygiene, and provide a more consistent sentencing approach.
Current consultation findings highlight that only 420 sentences were passed for health and safety in 2013 while other sentences passed are criticised for not fulfilling their purpose, which includes to punish, deter and protect members of the public. The aim is to bring sentencing into line, which would more adequately reflect the harm caused, the liability and the financial means of the defendant.
One outcome of the consultation could see significant increases in sentences with penalty fines, which are currently seen as being too low. According to new guideline proposals, an increase in fines for large companies committing the most serious health and safety offences could reach up to £10 million and up to £20 million in a case of corporate manslaughter.