Today the Sentencing Council has produced a consultation on new guidelines covering health and safety, corporate manslaughter, food safety and hygiene offences. The Sentencing Council’s objective is to ensure consistency and proportionality in sentencing across England and Wales. It is responsible for preparing guidelines which set out a decision-making process which must be followed, where they exist, by the sentencing court unless it is contrary to the interests of justice to do so.

The draft guidelines, for the first time, aim to bring together guidance for all health and safety matters. Guidelines in relation to corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences causing death committed by organisations were published by the Council’s predecessor in 2010. The draft guidelines will replace these and ensure consistency across health and safety offending which does and does not result in death.

Another impetus for the Sentencing Council to produce these new guidelines was the recognition of legal developments such as:

  • The decision of the Court of Appeal in R- v – Sellafield and Network Rail 2014 in which the importance of identifying a level of fine that achieves the aims of sentencing and given the financial circumstances of the offender in question.
  • The guideline that they published in February this year in relation to environmental offences. The Sentencing Council considers environmental and health and safety offences to be related and therefore it is desirable that there is consistency between the starting points and range of fines in those cases.
  • In anticipation of the Magistrates’ Courts obtaining the power to impose unlimited fines for certain offences, including health and safety offences, following the introduction of certain provisions of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. It is important that Magistrates have a guide to apply fair and proportionate sentences.

The consultation is open from today until 18 February 2015. A copy of the consultation can be found here.