The average fine handed down to organisations found guilty of health and safety breaches has jumped by nearly 450 percent since new sentencing guidelines were introduced in 2016, new data shows.
Interestingly, although the new guideline saw fine amounts increase for organisations of all sizes, the data shows a considerably higher percentage increase in fines for ‘large’ or ‘very large’ organisations.
The Sentencing Council recently release a report that assessed the guideline’s impact and implementation since they came into force on 1 February 2016. At their inception, the guidelines were designed to ensure that the levels of fines imposed for health and safety offences were proportionate to the means of the offender and reflected the seriousness of the offence committed.
Prior to the guidelines, convicted companies were fined on average £40,500 for safety and health offences – with approximately two-thirds fined less than £20,000 and only 17 percent paying over £60,000.
However since the guidelines were introduced, financial penalties have jumped sharply by an average of 447.4 percent to £221,700. Only 31 percent of companies received a fine less than £20,000, and over half (51 percent) received fines exceeding £60,000.
The Sentencing Council said it had not anticipated the increase in fines for smaller organisations and individuals.
Fine amounts imposed on organisations sentenced for corporate manslaughter may have increased since the guideline came into force, however the Sentencing Council warned that the finding should be treated with caution due to low volumes (around 20 organisations were sentenced over the last decade).
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.”