0370 270 6000

Health and safety breaches - what discount will I get for a guilty plea?

9 March 2017

The Sentencing Council have released their Definitive Guideline on the Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty Plea, which sets out the approach to be taken by the courts. The guideline will apply to both individual offenders and organisations in cases where the first hearing is on or after 1 June 2017.

In short, under the new guidelines only those defendants who indicate a guilty plea on the first occasion will be entitled to the maximum one-third discount on their sentence. We all know that is often very difficult to achieve in complex health and safety cases.

The value of the guilty plea discount has never been higher. The rise in health and safety fines since 2016 has been headline grabbing. Is it worth risking the loss, or reduction, in the one-third reduction which on a seven figure fine is substantial?

Although the Sentencing Council did not go so as far as to carve out an exception for regulatory offences they have provided an exception that could provide a lifeline to some defendants but be warned it will not help everyone charged with a health and safety offence. It will be for the defendant to satisfy the court that the maximum discount should apply because it would be unreasonable to expect the defendant to indicate a guilty plea sooner. It is important to take early advice as soon as you are on notice of a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and certainly as soon as the summons is received - the value of the discount is too important to risk losing it.

Related opinions

Asbestos: Still the UK’s number one occupational killer

A ResPublica report highlighted that asbestos continues to be the UK’s number one occupational killer, with nurses and teachers 3 to 5 times more likely to develop mesothelioma than the general UK population. The House of Commons Work & Pensions Select Committee is investigating how the HSE manages the continued presence of asbestos in buildings.

View blog

Taxi driver’s rental and uniform costs deductible for NMW purposes

Augustine v Data Cars Ltd the Employment Appeal Tribunal highlights importance of ensuring pay for National Minimum Wage purposes is carefully calculated.

View blog

Carbon accounting for SMEs: what’s your carbon shoe size?

SMEs need to get a handle on their carbon footprints now to help identify where carbon, and financial savings can be made.

View blog

Environmental Protection Act 1990 claims - the next big thing for claimant solicitors?

Over the last few years, our local authority and housing association clients have reported a significant increase in the number of claims received, usually from one of a specific group of claimant solicitors acting on behalf of tenants alleging a breach of their landlord’s repairing obligations.

View blog

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up