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Large firms ‘unfairly targeted’ by sentencing guidelines

Large companies have been “unfairly targeted” in revised sentencing guidelines announced this week, according to the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

As reported by MRW, guidelines for health and safety, food safety and hygiene and corporate manslaughter, published by the Sentencing Council, will come into force in courts in England and Wales on 1 February 2016.

They include an increase in penalties for serious offences, such as creating a high risk of death or serious injury.

The guidelines also state that any fine imposed must reflect the seriousness of the offence and take into account the financial circumstances of the offender.

ESA health and safety policy advisor Stephen Freeland told MRW he agreed with higher fines but said they should not relate to the offending company’s size.

“Correlating fines with company turnover would seem to go against the principle of health and safety law - which sets the same standard of behaviour for all. 

“We remain concerned that the guidelines appear to unfairly target large corporate entities by suggesting that sentences should be proportionate to the balance sheet rather than the severity of the offence itself.”

The guidelines cover legislation including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA); section 33(1)(a) in relation to breaches of section 2, section 3 and section 7; and section 33(1)(c).

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