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» Back to listing Sentencing Guidelines 2015 – Now published

25th November 2015

Following a consultation last year, the Sentencing Council has now published definitive guidelines covering health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences.

The publication of the guidelines means that for the first time, courts in England and Wales will have comprehensive sentencing guidelines covering the most commonly sentenced health and safety offences and food safety offences. The Sentencing Council said that it expected some offenders would receive higher penalties under the new guidelines, but that it did not anticipate "higher fines across the board". The guidelines require the court to take into account the size of the organisation when determining the sentence. Large organisations committing the most serious offences in particular would be targeted by penalties that were "fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the means of the offenders", it said. Large organisations (those with a turnover of £50 million or more) could face fines of up to £10 million for health and safety offences and £20 million for corporate manslaughter.

The new guidelines are intended to ensure a consistent approach to the sentencing of individuals and organisations by courts in England and Wales. As well as considering the risk of harm caused, the sentencing ranges also consider offender culpability.

Individual company directors found guilty of "consent, connivance or neglect" in relation to the offence will  face potentially unlimited fines and prison sentences of up to two years, according to the guidelines. Potentially many more directors, managers and junior employees will be handed custodial sentences due to a significantly lower threshold for imprisonment.

The guidelines require the court to take into account the size of the organisation when determining the sentence. Company turnover is used only to determine the starting point of the fine. The guidelines then require an overall assessment of the organisation’s financial circumstances, taking into account any additional relevant financial information, such as the profit margin of the organisation, the potential impact on employees, or potential impact on the organisation’s ability to improve conditions or make restitution to victims.

The guidelines will come into force in courts on 1 February 2016 and will apply to any case sentenced on or after that date.

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