As of today (1 February 2016) new sentencing guidelines will come into force to tackle problem companies in breach of health and safety legislation. The new sentencing remit is intended to allow the courts to level tougher sentences at organisations which break health and safety laws, with punishments including larger fines and jail terms for both managerial and junior staff in the most severe circumstances.
Given the courts operate a no upper limit, ‘fit the crime’ policy when passing sentence in health and safety cases, the Sentencing Council has devised a four-tier tariffing system to help courts and magistrates assign a fair and consistent sentence to all those in breach of health and safety laws — however serious the offence may be.
The new sentencing guidelines are split into four inflationary factors depending on the severity of the case in hand, with the first inflation being the least severe and the fourth being the most. This new sentencing tariff system is likely to see more companies receiving larger fines for health and safety breaches, as well as individual personnel being handed jail terms for the most severe infringements.
In order to level the appropriate sentence at offending organisations and individual parties, courts and magistrates must abide by the Sentencing Council’s inflation tariff system. To do this, they’ll assess three factors — culpability, likelihood and harm. They’ll then plug each of these verdicts into a table to establish a recommended start point for sentencing.
On top of this inflation tariff system, magistrates must also take a company’s annual turnover into account before passing sentence. Depending on the severity of the offence, small businesses may be handed a small-to-moderate fine or prison term, while larger corporations guilty of serious acts of corporate misconduct could face unlimited fines of over £100 million.
Commenting on the introduction of tougher sentencing laws, Michael Caplan QC of the Sentencing Council said: “These guidelines will introduce a consistent approach to sentencing, ensuring fair and proportionate sentences for those who cause death or injury to their employees and the public or put them at risk.”
Of course, the best way to avoid punishment for health and safety infringements is to employ adequate hygiene standards and comply with all current safety regulations. At Shieldyourself, we help companies achieve full health and safety compliance — giving them the peace of mind to operate without fear of breaking the law. To find out more about the service we offer, visit our homepage or call us on 020 3811 0741.