0370 270 6000

New sentencing guidelines for corporate killing offences

5 March 2010

Following on from the news that the first corporate manslaughter trial is to be adjourned until October 2010 at least, it is worth discussing the new sentencing guidelines which have recently been published for sentencing of Corporate Manslaughter and Health & Safety Offences Causing Death. The guidelines can be found at www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk, some interesting points to note from the guidelines:

  • The guidelines do not just apply to Corporate Manslaughter – they also apply to health and safety offences, where the offence was a “significant cause” of death. It is not necessary to prove that death was a result of a health and safety breach to prosecute such offences. However if the prosecution can prove this anyway, it will result in a much larger fine.
  • The guidelines state that the starting point for a fine where a health and safety offence has caused death would be £100,000. For corporate manslaughter, the starting point should be £500,000, increasing to millions of pounds for larger companies. However, it could have been worse – the Sentencing Advisory Panel had initially recommended that fines be linked to a company’s turnover, with the starting point for a fine being 5% of the relevant figure.
  • The guidelines set out a list of factors which will contribute to whether the fine is reduced or increased from this starting point, including whether there has been cooperation with the prosecution, whether there have been any failures to follow previous advice, and whether  the company had a good health and safety record before. Added to this list are the questions of whether or not the injured person was from a vulnerable class (e.g. foreign workers), and the degree of participation of senior management in the breach.
  • The fine should be set at a level which is appropriate to a company’s means to pay – the sum which is fined is in no way intended to reflect the value of a human life.
  • Publicity orders, ordering that the fact that a company has been convicted of corporate manslaughter be publicised, should ordinarily be made when a company is convicted of that offence.

Ultimately, the real question is – will the continuing focus on increasing sentences for health and safety offences actually result in companies taking better precautions?

Related opinions

80% hours for 100% pay? That’ll do nicely

As has been widely reported this week, some 3,000 UK workers are taking part in a six month trial to assess the viability of a four-day working week without any reduction in their normal pay.

View blog

Building Safety Bill receives Royal Assent

The new regime introduced by the Act will take shape over the next 18 months, but those who design, build or manage high rise buildings are being urged to get ready for the changes to be introduced through the act.

View blog

Building Safety Bill amendments

In March the government proposed a number of changes to the Building Safety Bill. The new amendments propose additional protection for leaseholders to prevent them from being charged for cladding work if they own up to three properties.

View blog

HSE Campaign Targets Construction Industry in Birmingham

The HSE has announced a campaign targeting health and safety in the construction industry in Birmingham. The Campaign is in response to a significant increase in development across the city, partly as a result of preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up