New guidelines proposed by the Sentencing Council could result in fines of more than £20 million for organisations convicted of corporate manslaughter.
The Sentencing Council for England and Wales (the independent body that produces the guidelines followed by judges and magistrates when passing sentence for health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter, food safety and hygiene offences) has now launched its public consultation on new draft guidelines.
It proposes guidance not just for those offences involving fatalities (as before) but all health and safety offences. It is proposed fines should be linked to corporate turnover modified by the seriousness of the offence and level of culpability.
Offenders may range from small family businesses to multi-national companies, statutory bodies and charities. Offences can be committed by individuals in their capacity as a Director of a company. The aim is to ensure sentences both punish and deter the offender and others from committing offences and to remove any financial benefit. For example saving money at the expense of safety. It is proposed fines will have an economic impact.
Very large companies with a turnover in excess of £50 million may face fines of more than £20 million. A medium sized company (with a turnover of between £10 million and £50 million) could see a fine with a £3 million starting point for the most serious offences. By comparison the benchmark under current guidelines if £500,000.
There is a fourteen week consultation period which runs to 18 February 2015 and comments can be made on the Council’s website: www.sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk.