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Movers could face bankruptcy from multi-million pound fines

Aug 25, 2017
Vikki Woodfine, Partner at law firm DWF LLP said some companies could be fined up to £4m for health and safety offences under new sentencing guidelines for health and safety breaches.

As well as potentially ruinous fines, companies were also having to bear the cost of contested cases because the Health & Safety Executive was adopting a policy of bringing cases at the highest level of culpability (and hence penalty) forcing firms to go to court to argue for a lesser offence.

At the same time, tougher penalties for serious driving offences, with fines of almost twice a driver’s weekly income plus disqualification, may cost drivers their livelihoods and will only add to the risk of Traffic Commissioners calling a driver conduct hearing, threatening the company’s operator’s licence.

Vikki Woodfine urged the HSE to take a fairer approach and a more realistic view of culpability and harm when bringing cases to court if it wanted to reduce the number of contested cases which placed a heavy burden on public funds as well as companies.

“In practice, companies are now faced with the most impossible of dilemmas when it comes to deciding whether to defend a prosecution,” she said. “There has always been a fine reduction when pleading guilty and this remains the case. However, given the new fine levels, there has been an increase in the number of defended cases as companies simply cannot just accept their fate given that the guidelines expose them to potentially business ending fines.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom. While the sentencing of crime has toughened up in a number of areas for haulage operators and their drivers, it remains a fact that good, safe and compliant operators will not ever have to feel the effect of these changes.

Photo: Vikki Woodfine.

Article and picture: Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory

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