Health and safety crime in the United Kingdom

Health and safety crime in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom there are several crimes that arise from failure to take care of health, safety and welfare at work.

Offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

All offences under the Act are triable summarily in the Magistrates' Court. However, some offences are triable on indictment in the Crown Court by judge and jury. If the magistrates feel that the offence is so serious as to exceed their sentencing powers, they can send it to the Crown Court for trial of for sentencing. The accused as a right to opt for Crown Court trial. Some other offences are triable summarirly only. Either an individual or a corporation can be punished [Interpretation Act 1978, s.5] A corporation cannot be imprisoned, though an individual manager could be convicted if guilty of an offence.

The statutory offences and maximum penalties are: [Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, [http://www.uk-legislation.hmso.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1974/cukpga_19740037_en_8#v00052-pt1-pb8-l1g41 s.33] ]

Further, for offences triable on indictment, up to two years' imprisonment may be imposed on a guilty individual where there is (s.33(4)):
*Failure to operate with a license required by a regulation;
*Breach of a condition of such a license;
*An explosives offence contrary to statutory requirements.

These penalties are maximums and guideline sentencing practice is published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. [ cite web | url=http://www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk/guidelines/other/courtappeal/default.asp?T=Cases&catID=11&subject=HEALTH%20AND%20SAFETY%20OFFENCES | title=(K) Miscellaneous offences - Health and Safety offences | work=Guideline Judgements Case Compendium | publisher=Sentencing Guidelines Council | accessdate=2008-03-08 | year=2005 ] However, the Health and Safety (Offences) Bill 2007, [Bill 29] seeks to extend the sentences available for these offences, making fewer of them summary only and subjecting more to maximum sentences of imprisonment or £20,000 fines. [ cite web | title=Heath and Safety (Offences) Bill - Explanatory Notes | publisher=House of Commons | year=2007-2008 | url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmbills/029/en/08029x--.htm | accessdate=2008-03-24 ]

Courts in England and Wales are able to order convicted persons to pay the costs of their prosecution. In general, courts will only award a nominal sum, not the full economic cost. However, in the specific case of health and safety prosecution, the court will award the totality of prosecution costs against the offender. [" [http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/1996/1237.html R v. Associated Octel Ltd (Costs)] " [1996] EWCA Crim 1237] [ cite web | title=Costs | work=Enforcement Guide | author=Health and Safety Executive | year=2007 | url=http://www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/enforcementguide/court/sentencing/costs.htm#2 | accessdate=2008-04-06 ]

The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 will give a Minister of the Crown the power to introduce, by Statutory Instrument, a system of fixed penalty notices for the section 33 offences. [Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, ss.36, 39-41/ Schs.5-6]

Pre-1974 legislation

As of 2008, there are residual provisions of pre-1974 health and safety acts that still impose criminal responsibility, for example the Factories Act 1961 and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963. Breach of these residual provisions is still punishable on summary conviction in the Magistrates' Court by a fine of up to £400 or, on indictment in the Crown Court, imprisonment for up to two years and an unlimited fine. [Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.33(3)] [ cite web | title=Sentencing and costs – Penalties | work=Enforcement Guide | publisher=Health and Safety Executive | url=http://www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/enforcementguide/court/sentencing/penalties.htm | accessdate=2008-07-15 ]

Fire Precautions Act 1971

Many workplaces require fire certificates and use of premises without a certificate is a crime punishable, on summary conviction in the Magistrates' Court with a £400 fine, and on indictment in the Crown Court with an unlimited fine and up to two years' imprisonment. [Fire Precautions Act 1971, s.7] It is also an offence to forge a certificate or to give false imformation to an inspector. Offenders can, on summary conviction, be fined up to level 5 on the standard scale. [Fire Precautions Act 1971, s.22]

Employer's Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969

This Act requires that employers carry insurance against the personal injury of their employees. Offenders can be senteced, on summary conviction in he Magistrates' Court, to a fine of up to level 4 on the standard scale. [Employer's Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, s.5]

Offences under REACH

These European Union regulations are "directly applicable" to people and establishments in member states. They came into operation on 1 June 2008 and the government of the United Kingdom must have established penalties for any breach by 1 December 2008. [ cite web | title=Proposals for the UK enforcement of the EU 'REACH' chemicals regulation | url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2007/070313c.htm | publisher=Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs | date=13 March 2008 | accessdate=2008-04-03 ] A draft Statutory Instrument has been published, the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008, [ cite web | url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/reach-enforce/statutory-instrument.pdf | publisher=Defra | accessdate=2008-07-15 | title=REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 ] with implementation planned for 8 November. [ cite web | title=Defra's statement of forthcoming legislation 2008 | | date=March 2008 | accessdate=2008-04-03 | url=http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/regulat/pdf/forthcomingleg-update-march2008.pdf | publisher=Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ]

Manslaughter

Where an individual's breach of duty of care causes death and is so serious a breach that it ought to be considered criminal, an individual can be convicted on indictment of gross negligence manslaughter and sentenced to up to life imprisonment. From 6 April 2008, the offence of gross negligence manslaughter no longer applies to corporations. [Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, s.20]

Corporate manslaughter and corporate homicide

On 6 April 2008, a new regime of corporate manslaughter came into effect in the UK. A corporation can be convicted on indictment and subjected to an unlimited fine in addition to having to put right its shortcomings and advertise its failures.

References

Bibliography

* cite book | author= [Various authors] | year=2007 | title=Tolley's Health and Safety at Work Handbook 2008 | location=London | publisher=Butterworths | id=ISBN 0754533182
*Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2004) "Halsbury's Laws of England", 4th ed. reissue, Vol.20(2), "Health and Safety at Work", 8.Criminal offences, 1035 - 1070
* cite book | title=Health and Safety Law | author=Stranks, J. | location=London | publisher=Prentice Hall | edition=5th ed. | year=2005 | id=ISBN 013197646X ----


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