Author: Gillian Birkby
Corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences can result in unlimited fines or even a prison sentence. The courts try to apply a consistent approach to sentencing across England and Wales, and there is a Sentencing Council which publishes guidelines on the appropriate level of fine/prison sentence, depending on a range of factors, such as the severity of the offence, previous good record and size of the organisation being sentenced.
There has been a concern that the fines imposed for these offences are still too low; for instance the largest fine for corporate manslaughter to date has been £500,000. The Sentencing Council has therefore published draft revised guidelines, which make it clear that for very large organisations the fines could be more than £20 million for corporate manslaughter and more than £10 million for health and safety offences.
The emphasis will be on fines related to the turnover of an organisation, with the intention of imposing a penalty which has a material impact on the organisation, without necessarily making it insolvent. In extreme cases, though, when the court considers that the offender has acted with blatant or deliberate disregard of the law, the fine could be high enough to precipitate insolvency. In less severe cases, the proposals suggest that medium size companies could be fined up to £4 million, and that individuals should be fined from 25% to 700% of their weekly income.
These revised guidelines are out for consultation until February 2015 and are likely to come into force later in 2015.
Gillian Birkby, Head of Construction, Fladgate LLP (email@example.com)