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Draft Guidelines on Fines for Corporate Manslaughter Offences Published

November 12, 2009

Draft guidelines for sentencing offences under the Corporate Manslaughter Act and for breaches of health and safety regulations which cause a fatality suggest that fines will not be linked to turnover.

It had been mooted that companies would face a fine equivalent to 10% of turnover, but the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) has decided against this.

Instead, companies convicted of Corporate Manslaughter can expect to face substantial fines, running into millions of pounds and seldom anything less than £500,000. In addition, those found guilty of other health and safety offences which cause death are likely to incur a fine of at least £100,000, or even several hundred thousand pounds.

Andrew Stokes, partner and head of the Safety, Health & Environment Group at national commercial law firm Beachcroft LLP, said: “What we now have, if the SGC’s guidelines are adopted, is a clear benchmark for the minimum fine a commercial organisation can expect, and a forewarning that fines for corporate manslaughter convictions could reach into the millions of pounds, to reflect the new legislation’s intention to impose fines that appropriately reflect society’s disapproval of these very serious offences.”

The draft recommendations are subject to consultation until 5 January 2010 after which final guidelines will be issued. These will be binding on all courts in England and Wales. 

John Leighton, Managing Director of MAC GB Ltd said, “Although these are only proposed sentencing guidelines at the moment they clearly indicate the severity with which the Judiciary will deal with offences under the Corporate Manslaughter Act  and under the Health and Safety Regulations where a death has resulted from the breach. If nothing else these proposals should alert Corporate bodies of the need to prioritise Health and Safety Policies particularly Road Risk Management which poses the greater risk for many organisations”.

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