Legal Information Centre

20 February 2008 by Mary Heaney

Employment lawyers welcome new health and safety legislation

A new bill upping fines on health and safety has had its second reading in the House of Commons
 The maximum fine that magistrates' courts could impose for 'regulatory' offences from £5,000 to £20,000 if a new Health and Safety (Offences) bill is passed. Lawyers believe the bill, which recently received a second unopposed reading in the House of Commons,  could lead to quicker resolutions for breaches.


Currently magistrates can currently impose a maximum £20,000 fine for breaches of the 'general duties' under the Health and Safety at Work Act, but that this is reduced to £5,000 for 'regulatory' breaches.


This is despite the fact that the failures in the case may be just the same.


Steffan Groch, a partner and employment lawyer at the law firm DWF, said:  "Fines for health and safety offences are potentially unlimited. If magistrates feel that the circumstances of a case warrant a larger penalty than they can impose, then they must commit the case to a Crown Court.


"By keeping more cases in the magistrates' court, it will actually keep down costs for defendants and lead to a swifter resolution.


"When a case goes to a Crown Court, costs increase as a barrister must generally be instructed and the proceedings will take longer - at least a further two to three months, even on a simple case."

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