Greater fines given to Health & Safety breaches

16 June 2014

This gave lower courts greater sentencing powers, including:

  • The option to imprison offenders.
  • The ability to increase fines for breaches of health and safety legislation, from £5,000 to £20,000.

This Act also meant that certain offences, which could only be tried in the lower courts, may be tried in higher courts, allowing greater fines to be imposed.

A recent report on the effectiveness of this Act, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, has shown that it has led to more cases being heard in the lower courts (therefore being dealt with more speedily) with convicted offenders being given higher fines. This Act has also led to more custodial sentences being given to employers who pay little or no regard to the welfare of their workforce or members of the public.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Fines in cases involving breaches of both health and safety regulations and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act increased by 25%.
  • The average fine involving breaches of health and safety regulations alone increased by 60%.
  • 86% of cases were heard in the lower courts, compared to 70% prior to this Act being introduced.
  • 346 cases attracted fines in excess of £5,000. Prior to introduction of this Act the maximum fine that could be introduced by a lower court was capped at £5,000.

Following publication of the report, the Minister of State for Health and Safety said: “By handing greater sentencing powers to magistrates [and, in Scotland, sheriffs] it has sent a clear message to employers that if they do not take their [health and safety] responsibilities seriouslythey will face stiff penalties, which include heavy fines and, in some cases, prison”.

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