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Business owner considers penalty fines announced by the SGC for corporate manslaughter

Van operators: big corporate manslaughter fines

Sentencing Guidelines Council sets our fine structure

THERE will be no hiding place for van operators who fail to comply with health and safety laws – the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s (SGC) fine strategy for corporate manslaughter has just been announced.

For van operators found guilty of corporate manslaughter the SGC was clear on its guidance. The fines, said the SGC, should be punitive and significant to deter and to reflect public concern at avoidable loss of life.

The SGC said that companies and organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter should face fines which may reach “millions of pounds and should seldom be below £500,000. For other health and safety offences that cause death, fines from £100,000 up to hundreds of thousands of pounds should be imposed.”

However, for smaller businesses, the SGC said that “in deciding the level of fine, account must be taken of the financial circumstances of the offending organisation.”

A business could be found guilty of corporate manslaughter if it allowed a van driver to go out in a van they knew to be defective – or had failed to adhere to a regular maintenance and inspection programme – which subsequently gave rise to a fatal accident.

Factors increasing the seriousness of the offence identified by the Council include the foreseeability of serious injury, whether non-compliance was common and widespread within the organisation, and how far up the organisation responsibility for the breach went.

Other factors that would aggravate the offence and raise the fine above the relevant minimum level included the number of deaths and serious injury caused, injury to vulnerable persons, failure to heed warnings or respond to near misses of a similar nature, cost-cutting, and deliberate failure to obtain or comply with relevant licences.

In every case, the SGC said part of the penalty should be Publicity Orders – compelling companies and organisations to publish statements about their conviction for corporate manslaughter, details of the offence and the fine.

Council member and vice president of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) Lord Justice Anthony Hughes said: “Fines cannot and do not attempt to value a human life – compensation will be assessed separately in these cases. These are serious offences and the fines must be punitive and substantial and have an impact on the company or organisation.”

Further information

For more on corporate manslaughter, read the article on our sister site. Click The law and corporate manslaughter.

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