5 November 2015

The independent Sentencing Council for England and Wales has published guidelines aiming to ensure a consistent, proportionate approach to sentencing those convicted of corporate manslaughter, health and safety, and food safety and hygiene offences.

Applying to both organisations and individuals, offences that come under the guidelines are varied and wide-ranging.

They include: a building firm that causes the death of an employee by not providing the proper equipment for working at height; a restaurant that causes an outbreak of E.coli poisoning through unsafe food preparation; or a manufacturer that causes injury to a new worker by not providing training for operating machinery.

Also included would be a gas fitter whose sub-standard work leads to the risk of an explosion in someone’s home.

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said: "These guidelines will introduce a consistent approach to sentencing, ensuring fair and proportionate sentences for those who cause death or injury to their employees and the public or put them at risk."

The guidelines, which can be found on the Sentencing Council website, will come into force in courts on 1 February 2016.

It is not anticipated that there will be higher fines across the board, or that they will be significantly higher in the majority of cases to those currently imposed.

However, in some cases, offenders will receive higher penalties, particularly large organisations committing serious offences. This would apply when one is convicted of deliberately breaking the law and creating a high risk of death or serious injury, for example.

While prison sentences are available for individuals convicted of very serious offences, most offences are committed by organisations and, therefore, fines are the only sentence that can be given.