841. General sentencing guidelines for penalties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales1 has issued Definitive Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety Offences which came into force on 1 February 20162. The guidelines apply to all organisations and offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 February 2016 regardless of the date of the offence. The guidelines replace the previous definitive guidelines for sentencing convictions for corporate manslaughter and of corporate bodies for health and safety offences which cause, or are one of the causes of, death3. Those guidelines did not apply where the death simply occurred, and was not causally related to the offence nor to any offences where death did not occur. The new guidelines apply to all health and safety offences4. They provide a radical departure from the previous guidance given by the Court of Appeal5.

In dealing with offences by organisations under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, 6where the maximum penalty, whether the case is tried on indictment or summarily is an unlimited fine, the range of fine is stated to be from £50 to £10 million7. Nine steps are set out which have to be followed for the court to determine the appropriate level of any fine.

First, the court should determine the offence category using only the culpability and harm factors in the guidelines. There are four categories for determining culpability:

  1.  

    (1)     Very high: deliberate breach of or flagrant disregard for the law.

  2.  

    (2)     High:

    1.  

      (a)     the offender fell far short of the