Environmental and health and safety fines for large companies — the sky’s the limit

On 17 January 2014, the Court of Appeal considered the levels of fines imposed for radioactive waste and health and safety offences committed by large companies and introduced requirements on those offenders regarding the provision of financial and corporate information prior to sentencing.

The Court of Appeal heard two appeals jointly, due to the shared issues they raised — issues of principle on the levels of fines to be imposed for offences by large companies.

The first appeal, R v Sellafield Ltd, involved a number of offences committed by Sellafield in failing to separate radioactive waste from non-radioactive waste and dispose of the radioactive waste appropriately. Sellafield pleaded guilty and the Crown Court imposed a fine of £700,000. In its appeal, Sellafield argued that the fine was manifestly excessive because it had pleaded guilty and co-operated fully in the prosecution of offences where there had been no actual harm suffered and the risk of harm was low…

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