Roly Buss MBE (CFIOSH)
An important legislation change which came into effect on 12th March 2015 has generally gone unnoticed.
Until now, there has been a limit to the level of fines imposed by a Magistrates Court following a breach of legislation: a maximum of £20,000 for serious offences and £5,000 for some minor offences. If the Magistrate felt that the punishment should be above the existing levels that they could impose, then the case would have been passed to the Crown Court for sentencing where fines are unlimited.
This recent change has effectively removed all the limits on fines made by a Magistrate who can now impose an unlimited fine. This applies to a huge list of Acts which includes the Health and Safety at Work, Fire safety, Environment, Food Safety etc.
The new limits will only apply to breaches which have been committed after the implementation date of 12th March, as earlier breaches will still be subject to the old limits even if the court appearance takes place after 12th March.
Consultation on the sentencing guidelines for health and safety has taken place, and the new guidance is expected to be introduced towards the end of the year.
As always, the best way of avoiding fines is by avoiding breaches of the legislation by complying with the standards required.
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