Health & Safety

The increase in fines for breaches of the HSWA in Scotland is something of a favourite topic here at Brodies’ Health & Safety Blog. We continue to see a stark increase in fines even in non-fatal cases. Consistent with that back drop, Scottish Sea Farms Ltd was fined £600,000 in respect of a double fatality on 31 May 2011. Their co-accused, Logan Inglis Ltd was fined £40,000. Both appealed and were successful. Last week, the Appeal Court found that the starting point for the fine was too high in respect of both accused and reduced the level of fine payable by Scottish Sea Farms Ltd from £600,000 to £333,335 and the fine payable by Logan Inglis Limited from £40,000 to £20,000.

So what can other companies take from the success in the Scottish Sea Farms appeal?  When sentencing a company, the court has to take into account the facts of the case and the financial position of the accused company. However, the Appeal Court found that the Sheriff had failed to apply the appropriate principles when sentencing the company’s first time around. In particular, the England and Wales Sentencing Guidelines Council guidance entitled ‘Corporate Manslaughter & Health and Safety Offences Causing Death’ will be followed even though it is not binding in Scotland. Any failure to properly weigh up the aggravating and mitigating factors and show their reasoning before coming to an appropriate penalty could serve as a useful appeal point for any company faced with a hefty fine.