Last week, JMW Farm Limited was fined £187,500 at Belfast Crown Court in the first Northern Irish corporate manslaughter conviction following the coming into force of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. JMW’s employee, Robert Wilson, was killed when a large metal bin that he was washing fell on top of him.
As the courts in Northern Ireland had not considered sentencing under the legislation before, it was interesting to see that the Recorder based his sentence on the guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council in England and Wales. On the offence of corporate manslaughter, the Guidelines say, “The appropriate fine will seldom be less than £500,000 and may be measured in the millions of pounds”.
JMW had net profits of over £1.3m for the year ending September 2011. The Recorder found the level of fine appropriate would have been £250,000 but reduced this by 25% to £187,500 to take account of JMW’s guilty plea. We have yet to see a sentence in the Scottish courts under the 2007 Act. Like Northern Ireland, Scotland does not currently have guidelines similar to those in England and Wales and so Scottish corporations should be aware that the English and Welsh Guidelines will almost certainly be consulted for guidance in Scotland and any fine is likely to be substantial.
On May 18, 2012