Impact Assessment on Sentencing Guidelines are Published

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The Sentencing Council has published its impact assessment on the 2016 sentencing guideline on health and safety offences, corporate manslaughter and food safety offences. The assessment confirms a dramatic rise in fines imposed on large employers for health and safety offences.  Comparing the 16 months pre-guideline with the 16 months post-guideline, the median fine imposed on large organisations (with a turnover of £50 million and over) jumped from £25,000 to £370,800.

This demonstrates that the guideline is achieving its aim of producing fines that reflect both the means of the defendant and seriousness of the offence. The figures also reveal increases in the median fines imposed on medium-sized (turnover between £10m and £50m) and small/micro (turnover up to £10m) organisations, from £20,000 to £100,000 and from £20,100 to £45,200 respectively.

Although more modest, these rises were not anticipated when the guideline was brought into force. The assessment also shows a less pronounced increase in fines for food safety and hygiene offences. A similar effect was seen in fines imposed on organisations for corporate manslaughter offences, but since these prosecutions are relatively rare, the number of cases is too low to provide a reliable indicator of the guideline’s effect.

Some further unanticipated changes in sentencing were noted:

  • an increase in fines imposed on individuals for health and safety offences;
  • changes in the types of sentences imposed on individuals; and
  • a small increase in fines imposed on individuals for food safety and hygiene offences.

The Sentencing Council examined sentencing remarks in court judgements and concluded that the guideline is generally being applied as intended.  It is anticipated that a further review will be carried out in due course.

The full impact assessment can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website

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