HEALTH AND SAFETY LAW BULLETIN FEB 2017-THE SENTENCING GUIDELINES 1 YEAR ON
TATES – CRIMINAL AND REGULATORY SOLICITORS
Until the introduction of the Sentencing Guidelines in February 2016 any guidance from the Sentencing Council was predicated by whether death was a consequence of any breach. The Guidance suggested that for cases of corporate manslaughter the sentence would seldom be less than £500,00 and for health and safety failings which resulted in death would seldom be less than £100,000. It is fair to say that the landscape has changed significantly over the last 12 months or so. Courts have followed the guidelines closely and there has been an increased willingness to pass custodial sentences and very large fines. It is something that all organisations and individuals who bear health and safety responsibilities will ignore at their peril.
How the Courts have applied the Guidelines – Recent Decisions
R v Conoco Phillips – The company which is a subsidiary of a US Energy Corporation operated an off-shore gas installation in the North Sea. There were 3 gas release incidents from 2012 and the company pleaded guilty to 3 offences in breach of regulations to which the Health and Safety Act 1974 applied. One of the spills came in dangerous proximity to 66 employees and on the 8 February16 the company was fined a total of £3 million and ordered to pay costs of £159,000. No-one was injured and no property was damaged as a result of the incidents. The company’s appeal was dismissed, Lord Justice Treacy ruled that ConocoPhillips (UK) Ltd had fallen short of appropriate standards and the case was one of high culpability.
R v Kenneth Thelwall – Thelwall was the sole director of Thorn Warehousing Ltd a company that hired out mobile access equipment. A fatal accident occurred when a flat bed truck that an employee was loading toppled over and landed on him. Thelwall had a previous conviction for a health and safety failing. He was dealt with on the basis that it was in the most serious category with a starting point 18 months custody. He was sentenced to 12 months immediate imprisonment, the sentence was upheld on appeal.
R v Watling Tyre Service – The company had a turn over of £20,000, an employee sustained fatal injuries form an exploding tyre. There were deficiencies as to the provision of the appropriate equipment. The company was fined £1 million.
R v Merlin Attractions (Alton Towers case) – The company was fined £5 million (reduced from £7.5 for the guilty plea with costs of £70,000. Two young women suffered leg amputations, 16 people were injured some seriously due to the failure of a roller coaster ride. There was a lack of a detailed and robust system for decision making of the employees operating the ride who made a series of errors.
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