Maximum fines available to magistrates to increase the impact on organisations?

By Zoe Cooper

The government has recently announced that it will remove the £5,000 upper limit on fines imposed in the magistrates’ courts. It is the government’s view that financial penalties, set at a level without the current maximums, are an effective way of deterring and punishing crime. One of the aims of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is to remove elements of the law that fetter the courts’ ability to make a decision over sentencing. This increase is the first made since 1991 and is provided for in the act.

When the changes come into play, they will apply across all business sectors and will affect a very wide range of legislation, including commercial, company, financial services, competition, property, health and safety and environmental laws. Companies and their directors may have to reconsider their approach to any offences that up until now may have been treated as relatively minor because of the low fines involved.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act received royal assent on 1 May 2012 and was primarily introduced to deal with the reform of civil litigation costs and funding…

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