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Consultation begins on sentencing guidelines for food safety and hygiene offences


Consultation begins on sentencing guidelines for food safety and hygiene offences

In an era where price fixing and anti-competitive practices attract fines measured in billions, the disparity associated with sentencing for safety offences has never been more evident. During 2014, we have seen attempts by the courts to increase levels of fines and now those attempts receive the support of the Sentencing Council, which has just published draft guidelines. If the guidelines are implemented as currently drafted, we expect to see fines increasing dramatically — sending a message to all organisations, and individuals, of the importance of compliance. A copy of the Draft Guidelines can be found here.

While there are calls for fines to increase, there are also calls for consistency of those fines, at whatever level. Attempts to impose tariffs on the courts have been rejected, and suggestions from defence practitioners that past sentencing decisions may be of assistance to the court are often rebuffed as not having any binding authority. This has garnered unpredictability when dealing with sentencing for food safety and hygiene offences; what might be an appropriate fine in one court, may not necessarily be considered so elsewhere in the country.

The primary aim of the guidelines is ‘to ensure that all sentences are proportionate to the offence committed and in relation to other offences’. We believe that the latter half of that ambition will be the most difficult to achieve, and will not be achieved within the guidelines as currently drafted: it is far from clear whether the new guidelines will achieve any more consistency than we have at present…

Click on the link below to read the rest of the Eversheds briefing.


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