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» Back to listing Huge shift in the punishment of safety offences

14th November 2016

The publication of the Definitive Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences has led to a huge shift in the punishment of safety offences.

The Guidelines came into force on 1 February 2016. They fundamentally change the approach to sentencing health and safety and food safety offences as well as the most serious offence of corporate manslaughter. The stated intention of the Guidelines is to improve consistency of sentencing and to impose fines which have a “real economic impact” that “brings home to management and shareholders the importance of complying with health and safety legislation”.

In the 8 months to 1 October 2016 there were 9 cases involving fines of £1 million or more and 35 in which fines of over £100,000 were imposed, totalling over £30 million. That compares with total fines from all health and safety enforcement in the year 2014-15 of £19.3 million. In fact there have been more fines in excess of £1 million imposed since February 2016 than in the whole of the preceding 20 years.

In addition recent research has indicated that the number of directors prosecuted by HSE trebled. in a year. Using data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), research showed that the number of company directors and managers prosecuted by the HSE in the year to 31 March 2016 was 46, compared to 15 in the previous year.

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