The new sentencing guidelines were published on 3 November 2015. They apply to those sentenced for Health and Safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences, on or after 1 February 2016, regardless of the date of the offence.
There is no upper limit on penalties under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, but guidance is given by reference to factors such as the financial size of the defendant, the degree of culpability, and the category of harm in addition to aggravating and mitigating factors. The offence range for large organisations with an annual turnover of more than £50m will be from £4.8m to £20m for corporate manslaughter and up to £10m for the most serious of other health and safety offences.
In the case of very large organisations whose turnover exceeds £50m, the guidelines say “it may be necessary to move outside the suggested range to achieve a proportionate sentence”.
Fines for those falling foul of health and safety, food safety and food hygiene offences will also be significantly increased.
As well as punishment, the guidelines provide for remedial orders to be made by the court in addition to or instead of punishment in cases where they may be appropriate. It should be noted, however, that addressing remedial action with offenders remains the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive rather than the courts.
The guidelines also include a range of mitigating factors, which allow for voluntary positive action to remedy a failure on the part of offenders to be reflected in sentences.
Companies are being strongly advised to review and assess their health and safety procedures in order to avoid potentially crippling fines.