Corporate manslaughter fines more appropriate for work-related injury

The fines being handed down to companies, following work-related deaths, is only a fraction of their total annual turnover, new research has revealed.

A report by campaign group, the Centre for Corporate Accountability (CCA), found that fines imposed on large companies convicted of health and safety offences were only 1% of their gross profits, or less than a 700th of their annual turnover.

The CCA argued that if individuals who took home an average annual income of £24,769 were sentenced at this level, it would mean a fine of £35.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 comes into effect on 6 April. The Act sets out a new offence for convicting an organisation where a gross failure in the way activities were managed or organised results in a person’s death.

David Bergman, executive director of the CCA, said the current fines imposed for the most serious health and safety offences are so low as to be almost irrelevant.

“Companies can be fined up to 10% of their turnover for breaching competition law – and this is when the company has not even been convicted of a criminal offence, and no personal injury, yet alone death is involved,” he said.

“Courts which have convicted companies of manslaughter, the most serious offence that companies can commit, must be able to fine them a much more significant amount. The threat of fines of between 15 and 40% of turnover is the kind of punishment appropriate to the seriousness of the offence and will create a real deterrent effect against companies needlessly placing the lives of workers and members of the public at risk,” Bergman said.

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