From March 2015 there is no maximum financial penalty for most breaches of Health and Safety legislation committed after that date. Whether the case is heard in a Magistrates’ Court or at Crown Court there is no maximum limit to the penalty that can be imposed.
In addition to the fine it is usual for the enforcing authority to be awarded the costs of their prosecution (that the guilty party must pay). These often run to thousands of pounds and can reach five figures.
Where an individual is prosecuted, whether as the owner of a business, as an officer of the company or as an employee they may be fined and in a number of cases may also be sentenced to imprisonment. For some offences Magistrates can impose sentences of up to 12 months, while Crown Court judges can impose a maximum two year sentence.
Prosecutions following fatal accidents are invariably heard in the Crown Court. Sentencing guidelines suggest that penalties should normally begin at £100,000.
For Corporate Manslaughter offences the same sentencing guidelines say that penalties should start at £500,000.
During 2015 the Sentencing Guidelines Council has been consulting on revised senencing guidance which would base penalties on turnover (rather than profit) and in most cases significantly increase the amount of penalties.