theBarrister
logo
breaking news
services

New sentencing guidelines proposed for corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety offences.

 

The Sentencing Council has published proposed guidelines for judges and magistrates to use when dealing with corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety and hygiene offences for open consultation. The Council is seeking views on its proposals and is keen to receive feedback from people working in the criminal justice system or regulatory enforcement bodies as well as industry, 

The draft guidelines cover offences that embrace a wide range of circumstances. The type of offenders that may commit these offences varies greatly and, with the exception of corporate manslaughter, there may not be a victim but there is still a broad spectrum of seriousness encompassed within each offence. The proposals seek to provide sufficient guidance to courts to promote a consistent approach to sentencing throughout England and Wales, combined with flexibility to ensure sentences are fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the case and the circumstances of the offender.  

The guidelines are being introduced due to a lack of comprehensive guidance for sentencers in relation to these offences. While there is a guideline covering corporate manslaughter and fatal health and safety offences, there is only some general guidance in the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines and Court of Appeal authorities setting out general principles of sentencing for offences where there has not been a fatality. There is very little specific guidance for sentencing food safety offences and the courts will usually have to extract applicable principles from sentencing in cases involving health and safety and environmental offences. Existing guidance only covers offences committed by organisations rather than individuals. 

Equally, these offences are not sentenced as frequently as other criminal offences, so the Council found that sentencers were not always familiar with how to deal with them. In 2013, approximately 420 offenders were sentenced for the health and safety offences covered by the draft guidelines, and approximately 280 offenders were sentenced for the food offences. It is evident that the offences covered by the guideline differ in a number of respects from the criminal offences more commonly seen by the courts and advocates will need to be able to assist the court with the concepts involved. However, the broad aims of sentencing are the same as for any other criminal offence.

 The Council has therefore concluded that there is a need for expanded guidance on dealing with difficult issues that arise in these cases, such as those relating to the risk of harm, identifying appropriate fine levels for organisations, or fining offenders that are charitable or public bodies. 

The review of these guidelines is also taking place in part due to concerns that some sentences imposed for these offences have been too low, particularly in relation to large organisations convicted of the most serious health and safety and food safety offences. The Council is therefore proposing to increase sentence levels in such situations. This will ensure sentences that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence while, as required by law, taking account of the financial circumstances of the offender. It is proposed that an offending organisation’s means will initially be based on its turnover as this is a clear indicator that can be easily assessed and is less susceptible to manipulation than other accounting methods. However, the guideline also requires the court to consider the organisation’s wider financial circumstances to ensure that fines can be properly and fairly assessed. 

The Council’s aim is to help ensure sentences that not only punish the offender, but deter them and others from committing these crimes by removing any financial benefit they may have had from offending. These offences can result in organisations that maintain proper standards being undercut by offending businesses who are often motivated by saving money at the expense of safety. 

Sentencing levels in relation to lower level offences are unlikely to change. This is because they are seen as already proportionate, and because fines must be based on the financial circumstances of the offender. 

Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said: 

“We want to ensure that these crimes don’t pay. They can have extremely serious consequences and businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that maintain proper standards and do their best to keep people safe. 

“Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties. 

“This is a consultation: we are interested in hearing feedback on our proposals so we can develop sentences which people understand and have confidence in.”

 The consultation is available on-line and is divided into offence specific sections and respondents should feel free to comment only on sections of interest or relevance to them. A list of respondents will be published in the Sentencing Council’s response paper following the consultation.  If respondents do not want their names to appear on the list, they should state this clearly in order for their response to be recorded as confidential. 

The guidelines will cover sentencing for the following offences: Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19(1); Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17(1); The General Food Regulations 2004, regulation 4; 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); and Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1.

 For more information on the Sentencing Council, to view the proposed guidelines and submit your feedback go to the website. (http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk) The consultation closes 18 February 2015. 

1. The consultation runs from 13 November 2014 until 18 February 2015. Responses can be made online at www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk, by email to consultation@sentencingcouncil.gsi.gov.uk or by post to:

 

Office of the Sentencing Council

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London

WC2A 2LL

 The consultation is accompanied by a resource assessment and an equality impact assessment which can be found at www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk. Following the consultation, a response will be published on the Council’s website.

 

2. The guideline covers the following offences:

  • Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19(1)
  • Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17(1)
  • The General Food Regulations 2004, regulation 4
  • 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)
  • Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1

 

3. Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so. If a judge or magistrate believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. When legislation changes guidelines are amended as appropriate.

 

4. The Sentencing Council was established by Parliament to be an independent body, but to be accountable to Parliament for its work which is scrutinised by the Justice Select Committee. Ministers are also accountable to Parliament for the Sentencing Council’s effectiveness and efficiency, for its use of public funds and for protecting its independence. Council members can only be appointed with the agreement of the Justice Secretary.

JustCite indexes Maritime Law Book cases over 150,000 Canadian cases indexed on the JustCite legal research platform  

 

Justis Publishing[1] is delighted to announce that its JustCite legal research service will index case reports from Canadian publisher, Maritime Law Book[2].

 The deal with Maritime Law Book will see over 150,000 cases from 12 different series being added to JustCite’s growing index.

 JustCite is an online legal research platform that helps legal practitioners and information specialists find leading authorities and establish the current status of the law. It links through to cases and legislation from across the common law world.

 The content provided by Maritime Law Book ranges from 1969 until present and covers series such as Federal Trial Reports, National Reporter, Ontario Appeal Cases, Alberta Reports and British Columbia Appeal Cases.

 Masoud Gerami, Managing Director at Justis Publishing, said: “We have continued our initiative to bring together the most relevant and authoritative content from all common law jurisdictions, and make them available through the exciting and ground-breaking JustCite platform.

 “I am delighted that we have included the index of the valuable series of case reports from Maritime Law Book, which is another step in providing easy access to the highly interrelated laws of different countries. I am confident that this addition will be of significant benefit to practitioners and researchers in Canada and the wider common law community.”

 Maritime Law Book publishes law reports covering every provincial jurisdiction in Canada, except Quebec. The reporters also contain all Supreme Court of Canada, Federal Court trial and appeal decisions, and select decisions of the United Kingdom Supreme Court and Privy Council. The decisions have concise headnotes (summaries) written by in-house editors (all lawyers). The headnotes feature Maritime Law Book's "Key Number System", whereby each point of law identified by its editors is assigned a unique Key Number that can be used to quickly find the same point of law in other cases. 

Eric Appleby, President of Maritime Law Book Ltd., said: “Our primary objective at Maritime Law Book is to make legal research easier for lawyers. We see our involvement with JustCite as another way of meeting that objective for researchers both in Canada and abroad. We are very excited about this initiative.”

  

For further information, please call + 44 (0)20 7267 8989 or email press@justis.com.

 



[1] Justis Publishing is a UK-based independent electronic publisher and provider of legal information and software services. It provides a wide range of online material on UK, Irish and other common law, and EU and International Law through its JustCite and Justis services.

 

[2] Maritime Law Book is located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, and is a privately owned (family) publishing company. Maritime Law Book publishes case law both in print and online (www.mlb.nb.ca).

Security from the top

The Data Protection Act requires that “appropriate technical organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data” and The Bar Council states that monetary penalties of up to £500,000 may be imposed in the event of serious contravention of these Data Protection Principles. On top of the financial risks for individual barristers, the reputational damage to Chambers is harder to put a figure on.  

Paul Coote, Founder and Managing Director at Instant On IT, says: “The temptation is to always run out and buy the latest security products. By having those products we will somehow become immune to all risks. Having the right tools certainly helps, but clear policies set by management, that are founded on best practice, make good sense to all and are easy to adopt, always need to be the starting point.”

When Adobe was hacked not too long ago, the hackers reverse engineered the password list. Out of the millions and millions of usernames and passwords stolen, 1.3 million users had set their password to be 123456, closely followed by 1234567 and adobe123. Google’s research into their users passwords found that 1/6 of their user base were using their pet’s name. This makes it all pretty easy to hack if you want to log into somebody’s account, or steal their license keys, or read their email.

As we discussed at our recent IT Security seminar, so much of our life is posted online these days, it is fairly simple to gain a whole profile of somebody just by looking at standard free websites. A great example is one company only asking for the month of your birth, another asking for the day. Together with your school record listed in Facebook, somebody can quickly work out your date of birth. Of course if you post pictures of Rover the family dog on Facebook, then there is a good chance that 1 in 6 people are using ‘Rover’ as the password to Google right now.

Chambers need to start with policies that both protect and are easy to adopt. The right tools then help reduce risks further, making it easier to implement safer and more secure systems. This is why, having helped our clients establish a robust password policy for example, many of our clients are using or considering using two factor authentication to add an extra layer of security on top of the ‘Rover’ password.

Ends 

Notes for Editors

Instant On IT

Conveniently located in central London, Instant On IT has developed a reputation for IT service excellence over the last 10 years. Our expertise spans IT Support and Maintenance, Cloud Services and Consultancy in sectors that include legal, private equity, accountancy, recruitment and media. 

Amongst our legal clients are Chambers such as Littleton Chambers, Cloisters and 6KBW, as well as law firms such as Ferguson Snell & Associates.

Aside from our technical brilliance, clients say it’s our values and the way we work that sets us apart from competitors. We continue to practice: Integrity, Quality, Dedication and Flexibility.

Our approach, is to really get under the skin of clients’ businesses and act in their best interest at all times. This ensures that the solutions we craft, implement and maintain are tailor-made to our client’s business and its commercial landscape.

 http://www.instantonit.com/

 


selected articles

Copyright © Barrister Magazine 2010