Fines for large organisations sentenced for health and safety offences have increased as had been anticipated following the introduction of new sentencing guidelines, figures published by the Sentencing Council show.

An impact assessment of the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences guideline for England and Wales, which came into force in 2016, also shows an increase in fines for:

  • Food safety and hygiene offences for organisations, but the increase was less pronounced than that for health and safety offences.
  • Corporate manslaughter offences, but due to low volumes this finding should be treated with caution.

There were a number of unanticipated changes including:

  • An increase in fines for smaller organisations and individuals sentenced for health and safety offences.
  • A change in the use of some sentence types for individuals sentenced for health and safety offences.
  • A small increase in fines for individuals sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences.

Analysis carried out by the Sentencing Council of Crown Court judges’ sentencing remarks suggests that the guideline is generally being applied in the manner intended.  The Council has considered this analysis, particularly the findings in relation to the fines imposed on smaller organisations and individuals. The Council intends to investigate further the operation of the guideline in due course, and will consider at that stage whether any revision of the guideline is necessary.

Sentencing Council Chairman Lord Justice Holroyde said:

“The law requires that any fine imposed must reflect the seriousness of the offence and take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. The Council is confident the guideline is achieving this objective and ensuring that where an offence results in the loss of life or very serious injury, fines are sufficiently punitive.”

Prior to the Sentencing Council’s guideline coming into force in February 2016, a guideline produced in 2010 by the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) was in use for organisations sentenced for corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences causing death.

The guidelines cover offences committed by organisations or individuals in the course of their business activities in England and Wales. They do not cover prosecutions of individuals for offences committed in the course of their private lives and do not cover food fraud offences.

The guideline covers the following offences:

  • 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);
  • Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19(1);
  • Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17(1);
  • The General Food Regulations 2004, regulation 4; and
  • Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1.