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Corporate Manslaughter – Sentencing Guidelines Published

February 28, 2010

Definitive guidelines were published on February 9 to help courts deal with organisations that cause death through a gross breach of care, or where a health and safety offence is a significant cause of a death. These guidelines come into force retrospectively.

Organisations guilty of corporate manslaughter can be given up to a seven-figure fine, and rarely less than £500,000 according to the Sentencing Guidelines Council. The Council emphasised that “punitive and significant fines should be imposed both to deter and to reflect public concern at avoidable loss of life”.

Various factors are taken into account when sentencing takes place, including an organisation’s previous good safety record and their existing health and safety policies and procedures. Although penalties should not be linked to company turnover or profit, account is taken of the financial circumstances of offending organisations as well as the impact on employment of innocent parties, and the extent to which the fine could inhibit public service delivery (e.g. in the case of a local authority or health trust).

The new definitive guidelines make it very clear that penalties for causing the death of a person under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act will be very stiff, and will include a compulsory publicity order to ensure organisations cannot hide their actions.

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