Health and Safety Sentencing – Three years on and now for the bad news…

9 April 2019

A year on from the introduction of the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences sentencing guidelines for England and Wales (the guidelines) we considered what the guidelines meant for individuals and organisations convicted of health and safety offences (see our related blog Health and Safety Sentencing a year on from the new guidelines – What’s changed?) .

Shortly after the three year anniversary of the guidelines coming into effect the Sentencing Council has published an impact assessment in which they look at whether their intended outcomes have been realised in practice.

Firstly, it is clear, and as was anticipated by the Council, that fines for large organisations have seen a considerable increase. Interestingly, and an outcome that was not anticipated, it seems that small and medium sized organisations have not been immune to this upwards trend.  Whilst the increase has been more modest for small and medium sized organisations, there is no doubt that the trend is for larger fines to be imposed on all organisations sentenced under the guidelines.

It is also of interest to note that it appears that fewer appeals against sentence have been successful over the past three years.  This may be because the guidelines require a more critical assessment of the factors to be weighed in the balance upon sentence and therefore less room for argument on appeal.  

In a recent blog Health and Safety: Prosecutions of directors on the rise we noted that one impact of the guidelines was that prosecution of directors and senior managers was on the rise.  At the three year anniversary it seems that the upward trend continues.  It also reveals, as another unintended consequence, that there has been an increase in the fines imposed on individuals, particularly for those fines at the higher end.  There is also an upwards trend in the use of suspended prison sentences.

So whether you be an individual or a corporate facing sentencing on health and safety offences the news is not good.  In that context, it is most important that take early advice on the prospect of successfully defending your case and, when those chances are slim, to put maximum effort into negotiating a plea on the most favourable factual basis and preparing the best possible mitigation, to secure the best possible outcome.

Further information

If you are a corporate or an individual who requires legal assistance we have a team of Health and Safety specialists at Kingsley Napley who would be happy to help; please contact Jonathan Grimes or Melinka Berridge for further information.

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