It’s rare for legislative changes to apply retrospectively but that’s what’s happened as regards sentencing guidelines for employers and directors found guilty of corporate manslaughter. Ironically the changes apply shortly before the first case under the Corporate Manslaughter Act comes before the court.
The final guidelines recommend a starting point of £500,000 for corporate manslaughter cases and £100,000 for deaths arising from Health and Safety law breaches. Tim Hill, health and safety partner at Eversheds says the guidelines indicate that the fine should be “punitive and sufficient to have an impact on the defendant”.
He adds that: “There are various aggravating or mitigating factors which the Court must consider in terms of whether the offence is more or less serious than the starting point, and the overall size and financial status of the defendant company will still have to be considered. However, there is a clear intention that there should be a step change in the level of fines, to reflect the public perception that historically fines have been too low.”
Directors found guilty also face the prospect of jail.
The sentencing guidelines will apply to all cases which appear before the courts after 15 February, even if the incident occurred a number of months or even years ago.
Cotswold Geotechnical director Peter Eaton will be in court soon as he and the company face the first charges brought under the Corporate manslaughter Act. These followed the death of employee Alexander wright on September 5 2008.
Wright, 27, who was employed by CGH as a junior geologist, was taking soil samples from inside a pit which had been excavated as part of a site survey when the sides collapsed, crushing him.
Somehow it seems rather curious that the guidelines have been published just before the trial.