Health and Safety Sentencing – Can you afford not to be prepared?

jailThe Sentencing Council has just announced plans for a proposed major change to their sentencing guidelines for corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food offences and launched draft guidelines for consultation. The main aim of the changes is to fairly punish the offender and deter future offences.

What’s currently wrong?

There is currently a lack of comprehensive guidance for sentencing, and even though there is basic guidance for corporate manslaughter and fatal health and safety there is nothing specific for food safety and hygiene. Also any sentencing tends towards the business and not the individual.

The proposed new guidelines will cover all the most commonly sentenced health and safety offences including food safety. Food offences are wide ranging and currently do not have consistent levels of sentencing. Issues can include poor hygiene in the kitchen or failings in preparation of food. The new guidelines clarify sentences to be passed, ensure they are fair and that they are not too low.

The new guidlines will “ensure sentences that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence while, as required by law, taking into account of the financial circumstances of the offender”. This will include a review of the company’s annual turnover and the fine will be based on the amount. However the new guidelines will take into account the company’s overall finances before confirming the amount.

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said:

“We want to ensure that these crimes don’t pay. They can have extremely serious consequences and businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities and undercutting those that maintain proper standards and do their best to keep people safe.”

The council’s aim is to “help ensure sentences that not only punish the offender, but to deter them and others from committing these crimes while removing any financial benefit”. This will be a welcome update as it ensures larger companies are penalised regardless of how big or how much profit they make.

This will also cover individuals in health and safety and food safety and allow sentences to be large enough to have proper impact but still be proportionate to the crime. However, current sentencing levels in relation to lower level offences are unlikely to change due to them being deemed sufficient enough already.

Have your say

follow the guidelinesA consultation has been set up to allow respondents to freely comment only on sections of interest to them, for the board to gather feedback on the proposals so they can improve, and allow people to understand what the proposals are for and have confidence in them. You can respond and keep updated on the consultation by going to www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk or by email to consultation@sentencingcouncil.gsi.gov.uk where the consultation runs from November 13 2014 to February 18 2015.

The guideline covers the following offences:

  • Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19 (1)
  • Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17 (1)
  • The general Food Regulations 2006, regulation 4
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA); section 33 (1) (a) in relation to breaches of section 2, section 3 and section 7; and section 33 (1) (c)
  • Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1

RoSPA welcomes these changes as this will reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace and penalise companies who are ignoring health and safety or who do not follow procedures in order to save money.

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