Significant Changes since the Introduction of New Sentencing Guidelines

Significant Changes since the Introduction of New Sentencing Guidelines

In February 2016, the Sentencing Council introduced a new guideline for Health and Safety and Corporate Manslaughter offences, which made a step change to the level of fines that the courts can impose. More serious offences can find large organisations with a turnover of over £50m now fined up to £20m, and there has been an increase in the number of custodial sentences for directors and senior officers.

Significantly affecting companies both large and small, the courts are required to stringently follow these new guidelines, although having jurisdiction to depart from them if it is in the interests of Justice. You can see the full guidelines here.

Although these guidelines took effect in February 2016, any offences sentenced after that date, irrespective of when the offence took place, will still be tried under these new guidelines. For instance, an offence that arose from an incident in December 2015 that is only now coming before the courts would have the new guidelines applied to it.

Increase in Fines and Corporate Custodial Sentences since New Guidelines Implemented

Over a twelve month period, forty-five custodial sentences were given to directors and senior officers of organisations under these new guidelines, with fines for companies getting very large indeed. It is now a regular occurrence for fines to achieve in excess of a million pounds, or in some cases several millions of pounds, and for large organisations it can be even higher than that.

According to this article in the IOSH Magazine, in the first full year of the new sentencing guidelines fines reached £69.9m compared to the £38.8m figure of the previous year. Surprisingly, there were 554 cases in 2016-17 that resulted in conviction, being a drop from the previous two years. The construction industry had the highest number of convictions. In the manufacturing industry, fines doubled in 2016-17 to £15.9m, a 100% increase from the 2015-16 figure of £7.9m. Agriculture was the only industry in which fines fell.

Ian Clements, Managing Director of Quadriga Health & Safety, said, “The Alton Towers incident resulted in them being fined £5m, and an NHS Trust was fined £1 million in relation to a patient death caused by an accident using a hoist.” You can hear more of him talking about the impact these new sentencing guidelines are having here.

Not only are fines getting very large for some organisations, but they could be an existential threat to them, too. Fines are related to the size and turnover of the organisation, but nonetheless, these are really significant matters for companies both large and small.

There are ways to prevent having these fines and convictions charged on your organisation, most obviously being to avoid committing health and safety breaches in the first place! Other advice includes:

Ask for a Health & Safety risk review from Quadriga today. Contact us on 0118 929 9920 or click here to email us.

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