Sentencing Guidelines are due to change on the 01/02/16 which is believed to be one of the major changes that will shake the approach to Health & Safety for major corporations and smaller contractors up and down the country. Heavy Fines are now going to be imposed to businesses in accordance with their turnover which is more similar to the fine imposed in recent years to the financial institutions, and individuals are facing an increased chance to spend some time in jail if found guilty or to be recurrently breaching Health & Safety laws.
Being a new way of ‘thinking’, it will have to be seen how the guidelines are going to be introduced but there is a stronger belief that courts have been provided with greater powers in order to punish mistakes, neglect and blatantly recurrent breaches.
Courts will now have the right to look at the last 3 years of a company turnover in order to identify what category they belong to, from very large companies with a turnover of over £50m to micro companies with turnover below £2m, with fines in the high category starting at £4m. The risk element and the number of people exposed to the risk will play a strong part in the sentencing work that courts will be required to take into consideration in order to come up with the required fine or punishment, but it is believed that with the new guidelines, cases that in the past would have been resolved with small fines, could now be considered as high category due to the possible risk element and not just the outcome of the accident.
It is still in it’s early stage but it is clear that changes are due to shake the way courts will sentence health & safety cases.