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Companies to face £500,000 fines if guilty of corporate killing

Fines for corporate manslaughter should start at £500,000 and include a public admission of guilt, the Sentencing Guidelines Council said this week.

Organisations guilty of causing death as a result of gross breaches of care should be fined at least £500,000, it said.

The Council ensures that sentences for crimes in England and Wales are consistent.

This week it published its recommendations on the sentencing of organisations guilty of breaching the new Corporate Manslaughter Act, passed last year.

Companies or organisations should also be made to comply with New Publicity Orders, forcing them to make public statements, including statements on their websites, about their convictions and fines, the Council said.

“The fine is designed to punish and these are serious offences so the fines imposed should be punitive and significant.”

Lord Justice Anthony Hughes

“Fines cannot and do not attempt to value a human life − compensation will be payable separately in these cases,” said Council member and Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) vice president Lord Justice Anthony Hughes.

“The fine is designed to punish and these are serious offences so the fines imposed should be punitive and significant to reflect that,” he said. He rejected the idea of basing fines on a proportion of company turnover.

Guilty organisations may also have to face a separate health and safety prosecution, facing additional fines running to more than £100,000.

The seriousness of a case will be influenced by how predictable or commonplace an injury or breach of the new legislation has been and how far up the organisation the responsibility goes.

Specialist in health and safety law at solicitors Dickinson Dees, Alison Gray said the level of fines imposed would inevitably increase, hitting small companies especially hard.

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