Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co

UK 200 2013 position: 25

Choice of lawyer critical in health and safety investigations — further clarification now provided by the European court

By Michael Hafen

It’s a fact that accidents happen from time to time. In criminal proceedings, the prosecution does not have to prove that an offence was committed deliberately or sometimes even negligently. The exposure of someone to a material risk (i.e. more than merely fanciful or trivial) is enough to secure a conviction.

Fines for prosecutions in the Crown Court can be substantial, especially for larger organisations, with greater attention currently being paid to turnover in the period before an accident when the court decides what will be sufficient to ‘punish’ shareholders.

Generally, for a fatality, a minimum fine of £100,000 can be expected. If there is a corporate manslaughter charge, the sentencing guidelines provide that the fine will be not less than £500,000. Prosecution costs, especially where a not-guilty plea is maintained, can also be a substantial element of any punishment. Prosecution costs and any fine imposed will not be indemnified by either employers’ or public liability insurance. Both affect your bottom line directly…

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55 Colmore Row
B3 2AS

Turnover (£m): 120.50
No. of Lawyers: 458