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New Definitive Sentencing Guideline for Health and Safety cases comes into force


The Sentencing Councils Definitive Sentencing Guideline for Health and Safety cases comes into force on 1st February 2016 and applies to all offenders convicted of health and safety offences. 

The Guideline will have a dramatic effect on the punishment of health and safety offenders and, in conjunction with the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 that came into force on 12th March 2015) will lead to huge increases in the level of fines imposed or organisations and individuals.

The Guideline is mandatory for the courts in England and Wales and requires them to properly assess the offender's culpability with the priority being, the harm that was risked, rather than the harm that actually occurred. Additionally the Guideline requires that, when deciding on the appropriate levels of fines in health and safety cases, there has to be a much more detailed analysis of the offender's financial position and resources.  

The Courts will be required calculate the level of fine based on the key criteria of level of culpability and organisations turnover. For example where a micro organisation, which is defined and having a turnover of not more than £2,000,000 and whose culpability is adjudged as Low, the starting point for the fine would be £30,000. Whereas if their culpability is adjudged as being High, the starting point for the fine would be £250,000

Previously, fines for health and safety cases dealt with at the Magistrates' Court were limited, often, to a statutory maximum of £5,000, or a higher amount, if so provided for in the applicable legislation. 

For example, health and safety offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 were capped at £20,000, while the cap for environmental offences varied between £5,000 and £50,000 depending upon the nature of the offence. There is now no cap on the level of fines, which can be imposed by Magistrates for these offences. 

The rationale for the legislation is to encourage the greater use of fines in the Magistrates' Courts and, in particular, to enable Magistrates' Courts to impose more proportionate fines on wealthy and corporate offenders. 

Fines for health and safety offences in particular have increased at a significant rate in recent years. The relaxation of the restrictions on the fining powers of Magistrates' Courts and new guidelines on sentencing calculations is very likely to increase this trend still further. 

Pernix Safety Management - Director – Alan Hurst C.M.I.O.S.H
Registered Office – Peterborough, Cambs, PE3 6FB
Contact 01733 331300 / 07597 793 626 enquiries@pernix-safety.co.uk