Health and safety fines rise by 43% in a year

The amount companies have paid in fines for health and safety offences has risen by 43 per cent in one year, the Times reports today.

Figures obtained by the paper from Thomson Reuters’ business and crime division show that the total for fines has risen to £54 million in 2016-17. It compares with £37 million of total fines imposed in 2015-16, the year before the Sentencing Council guidelines were triggered on 1 February 2016.

The new research also shows that the average corporate fine has trebled. The average fine for companies was £280,974 in 2016-17, compared with £90,604 the year before.

Andrew Katzen, partner at Hickman & Rose law firm, said judges were no longer reluctant to punish firms with the new means at their disposal: “In 2015 parts of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force which lifted the £5000 cap on Magistrates’ court fines.

This has allowed Magistrates to impose penalties that reflect the life changing impact of serious health and safety failings without having to send cases up to the Crown Court for sentencing. New sentencing guidelines released in 2016 then resolved any remaining hesitancy to impose high sentences."

Thomson Reuters’ data follows the IOSH / Osborne Clarke LLP report issued on 1 February this year. Issued exactly one year on from the new guidelines it found that total income from the highest 20 fines in 2016 (£38.58 million) was higher than the total fine income for all the 660 fines of the previous year.