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Firms guilty of corporate manslaughter face minimum £500,000 fines

16 November 2009

Companies and organisations that cause death through gross breaches of care should face punitive and significant fines, a consultation guideline published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council proposes.

Fines for organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter may be measured in millions of pounds and should seldom be below £500,000, it recommends.

The consultation guideline proposes that the publicity should be designed to ensure that the conviction becomes known to shareholders and customers in the case of companies and to local people in the case of public bodies, such as local authorities, hospital trusts and police forces. Organisations may also be made to put a statement on their websites.

Also, the effect on provision of services to the public should be considered. Public organisations and commercial companies are to be treated the same in relation to the standards of behaviour expected, and punitive fines for breach will follow although a different approach to determining the level of fine may be justified, the guideline says.

Factors increasing the seriousness of the offence identified by the Council include how foreseeable was serious injury, how common is the kind of breach of care in the organisation and how far up the organisation did the responsibility for the breach go.

Other factors that aggravate the offence and may attract a larger fine include the number of deaths and serious injury caused, failure to heed warnings, cost-cutting or deliberate failure to obtain or comply with relevant licences. The consultation closes on January 5, 2010.