DEPARTMENT FOR WORK
AND PENSIONS News Release (HSE106) issued by COI News Distribution
Service. 17 October 2008
the Health and Safety Offences Act 2008, which will increase
penalties and provide courts with greater sentencing powers for
those who flout health and safety legislation has been welcomed by
The Act raises the maximum penalties that can be imposed for
breaching health and safety regulations in the lower courts from
£5,000 to £20,000 and the range of offences for which an
individual can be imprisoned has also been broadened.
DWP Minister Lord McKenzie said:
"It is generally accepted that the level of fines for some
health and safety offences is too low. These changes will ensure
that sentences can now be more easily set at a level to deter
businesses that do not take their health and safety management
responsibilities seriously and further encourage employers and
others to comply with the law.
"Furthermore, by extending the £20,000 maximum fine to the
lower courts and making imprisonment an option, more cases will be
resolved in the lower courts and justice will be faster, less
costly and more efficient.
"Jail sentences for particularly blameworthy health and
safety offences committed by individuals, can now be imposed
reflecting the severity of such crimes, whereas there were more
limited options in the past.
"I am delighted that this legislation is now on the statute
book and very grateful to my colleagues Keith Hill MP and Lord
Bruce Grocott for introducing the Bill and for the support
received from all sides of both Houses of Parliament."
The Act amends Section 33 of the Health and Safety at Work etc
Act 1974, and raises the maximum penalties available to the courts
in respect of certain health and safety offences. It received
Royal Assent on 16 October 2008 and will come into force in three
months time, in January 2009
Media Enquiries: John Stevenson 0203 267 5126
Office: 0203 267 5144
Out of hours: 07659 108 883
Notes to editors
1. Increasing penalties and providing the Courts with greater
sentencing powers has been Government and Health and Safety
Executive (HSE) policy since the publication of the Revitalising
Health and Safety Strategy Statement in June 2000 (Action Point 7).
2. The Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 was introduced as a
Private Members Bill and piloted through the House of Commons by
the Rt Hon Keith Hill MP and by the Rt Hon Lord Bruce Grocott in
the House of Lords.
3. The effect of the Act is to:
a) raise the maximum fine which may be imposed in the lower
courts to £20,000 for most health and safety offences;
imprisonment an option for more health and safety offences in both
the lower and higher courts;
c) make certain offences, which
are currently triable only in the lower courts, triable in either
the lower or higher courts.
4. Details of the Act's changes are as follows:
Summary of current and new penalties under the Act
* £5k or £20k for summary offence in lower courts, depending on
offence; unlimited fine for indictable offence;
* imprisonment not available for most offences (but up to 6
months in magistrates court / 2 years in Crown Court for few
offences eg failing to comply with a prohibition notice or
breaching a licensing requirement).
* £20k fines in lower courts for nearly all summary offences,
unlimited fines in higher courts;
* Imprisonment for nearly all offences - up to 12 months1 in
Magistrates Courts and 2 years in the Crown Court.
5. The Act, which covers Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will
come into force in January 2009.
6. There are strict guidelines which are observed by the
regulators in their approach to the prosecution of health and
safety offences.. The HSE Enforcement Policy Statement. makes it
clear that prosecutions should be in the public interest and where
one or more of a list of circumstances apply. These include:
* where, death was a result of a breach of the legislation;
there has been reckless disregard of health and safety
* there have been repeated breaches which give
rise to significant risk, or persistent and significant poor
* false information has been supplied wilfully,
or there has been intent to deceive in relation to a matter which
gives rise to significant risk.
7. Prosecutions of individuals by health and safety regulators
are not undertaken lightly. Any prosecutions of individuals are
subject to the same strict considerations set out above and are
only taken if warranted, and not in lieu of a case against their employer.
DWP Press Office: 0203 267 5144
1 To be read as a reference to a term not exceeding 6 months
until the coming into force of section 154(1) of the Criminal
Justice Act 2003. At present, there are no Government plans to
"switch on" this clause.