Wednesday 10 Feb 2010 @ 10:40
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Council Publishes Definitive Guideline on Corporate Manslaughter and Health and Safety Offences which cause death
In its final definitive guideline, the Council sets out principles to guide courts in dealing with companies and organisations that cause death through a gross breach of care or where breach of health and safety requirements are a significant cause of the death.
The advice is clear – punitive and significant fines should be imposed both to deter and to reflect public concern at avoidable loss of life.
Fines for companies and organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter may be millions of pounds and should seldom be below £500,000. For other health and safety offences that cause death, fines from £100,000 up to hundreds of thousands of pounds should be imposed.
In deciding the level of fine, account must be taken of the financial circumstances of the offending organisation. In the guideline the Council emphasises the need for a court to have full, accurate and reliable information and details the method for ensuring that it is consistently provided.
When fixing the fine, a court should not be influenced by the impact on shareholders and directors, nor consider the costs of complying with other sanctions. However, the effect on the employment of the innocent may be relevant, as may the effect on provision of services to the public.
Factors increasing the seriousness of the offence identified by the Council include the foreseeability of serious injury, whether non-compliance was common and widespread within the organisation, and how far up the organisation responsibility for the breach went.
Other factors that would aggravate the offence and raise the fine above the relevant minimum level include the number of deaths and serious injury caused, injury to vulnerable persons, failure to heed warnings or respond to near misses of a similar nature, cost-cutting, and deliberate failure to obtain or comply with relevant licences.
Publicity Orders - compelling companies and organisations to publish statements about their conviction for corporate manslaughter, details of the offence and the fine - are part of the penalty and should be imposed in virtually all cases.
Council member and Vice President of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) Lord Justice Anthony Hughes said;
"Fines cannot and do not attempt to value a human life – compensation will be assessed separately in these cases. These are serious offences and the fines must be punitive and substantial and have an impact on the company or organisation."
Notes to editors:
The definitive guideline is available on the SGC website (www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk) along with a summary of responses to the consultation guideline.
Printed copies may be obtained from: the Sentencing Guidelines Secretariat, 4th Floor, 8-10 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AE (tel: 020 7084 8130).
Further information about the Council and Panel can be found at http://www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk/about/index.html.
For further information about this press release and the guideline, please contact the secretariat on 020 7084 8130.