The Government has been given the power under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offences Act 2012 (the “Act”) to remove or amend the caps on fines that Magistrates’ Court can impose criminal offences.
Although the Act received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012 these particular changes have not yet been commenced.
However, if and when the changes are brought into force they will apply across all business sectors and will affect a very wide range of legislation, including health and safety and environmental laws. At present, the maximum fine for most health and safety offences where they are sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court is £20,000 and/or six months imprisonment where an individual has been convicted. For environmental offences, the maximum offence is £50,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment where an individual has been convicted. The new position When section 85(1) of Act comes into force any offence punishable on summary conviction, where the fine is currently capped at £5,000 or a higher amount, will instead face a fine of unlimited amount. This will not, however, have a retrospective affect.
Reason for the change
The removal of the cap was not part of the bill when it was first laid before Parliament and there was very limited debate on these changes when the Bill was discussed in Parliament. However, on numerous occasions, the Government has stated that it wishes to encourage the greater use of fines in the Magistrates’ Court and to allow the Magistrates’ Court to deal with more cases without the need to commit for sentence cases where they consider that they do not have sufficient power available to them to impose a proportionate fine on wealthy or corporate offenders.
Affect on companies and individual company officers
Over recent years there have been significant increases in the maximum penalties available in health and safety and environmental cases, for example the Health and Safety Offences Act 2008 raised the fines for many offences to £20,000. Similarly, legislation including the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 and Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 saw the maximum fines for cases of water pollution, environmental permitting and waste offences rise to a maximum of £50,000. These changes have already resulted in courts imposing larger fines in such cases, and it is anticipated that the already substantial fines imposed in such cases will rise further once there is no cap on the fines that can be imposed in the Magistrates’ Court. Now that businesses face increased potential for higher fines from the lower courts, it is more important than ever that practices, policies and procedures comply with legislation. Whereas previously companies may have been persuaded to accept allegations of minor failures, they may now wish to contest such allegations, because minor breaches may soon result in unlimited fines. It will be necessary to watch and wait as to when the Government enacts the appropriate commencement order to bring the section into force.
Source: Brabners Chaffe www.brabnerschaffestreet.com0
“Graduates want more from life – we know we’re going to live ‘til we’re 100, have five different careers in our lifetimes, so we want to enjoy ourselves.” The summer months always see an influx of enthusiastic graduates, fresh from universities and business schools across the UK; looking to establish their career path and land[…..]
According to the CIPD report, women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment of the workforce. So, why do so many suffer from age discrimination? Possibly it’s to do with the common, but sometimes misunderstood symptoms that affect lots of women between the ages of 45-55, including hot flushes, headaches, aches and[…..]
Maxine Hart, our Operations Director, won the ‘Above and Award’ at the Place to Be Proud of Awards, which took place at the Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke recently. Destination Basingstoke runs the annual Place to Be Proud of Awards, which are hosted to recognise important contributions to Basingstoke’s community made by local individuals and organisations.[…..]
Summer is a supposedly idyllic time of year that most people look forward to. Warm days at the beach, refreshing drinks in the garden, delicious ice creams in the park… But if you’re a hiring manager looking after roles that need to be constantly resourced – such as reception, call centre, or warehouse – it[…..]
As Enterprise Coordinator at Enterprise M3 LEP, Shirley Ducker helps schools and colleges improve their careers and enterprise activities to engage with the world of employment. But it’s through her own personal journey that she’s learned the most about the power of networking. Shirley’s here as a guest blogger to share her experience with you…[…..]