Nick Barnard comments on the Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines in Small Business
The Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines came into force on 1st February 2016, and apply to all organisations and individuals sentenced after that date regardless of when the offence was committed.
Much like all other sentencing guidelines prepared by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, these new guidelines mean that Judges sentencing health and safety breaches have to take a step-by-step approach when deciding the appropriate level of sentence.
Nick Barnard, associate at Corker Binning, argues that, in regard to small companies, there is a very real prospect that fines at the level envisaged by the Guidelines could put a defendant company out of business.
‘Although larger companies and groups of companies will receive larger fines for equivalent offences, their size makes them more able to weather a significant financial penalty.
‘However, even where a small company has a solid trading base, the impact of a significant fine and legal costs, as well as the huge drain on staff and director time in dealing with criminal proceedings, may well put its future in jeopardy.’
The reputational damage of a health and safety conviction should also be taken in account, he adds, particularly as courts are required to consider whether a publicity order should be made, requiring a defendant company to publicly announce the offence and conviction in a specified form (for example, in local newspapers).
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