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Fines for health and safety breaches have more than doubled in the East since new guidelines introduced

PUBLISHED: 17:26 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:26 13 November 2017

Norwich Crown Court. Photo by Adrian Judd  for EDP.

Norwich Crown Court. Photo by Adrian Judd for EDP.

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New figures from the Health and Safety Executive reveal the average penalty handed out in the East rose from £35,500 in 2014/15 to £81,400 for 2016/17.

It comes after the first full year of new guidelines for sentencing prosecutions which have handed judges greater powers when punishing health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety and hygiene offences.

The figures also show that in 2016/17, some 57 out of 60 cases in the East of England resulted in at least one successful conviction, compared to 75 out of 83 the year before.

Despite the number of successful cases dropping by 24%, the total regional fines levied fell by only 11.5%, from £5.2m to £4.6m.

Among the businesses hit by fines under the guidelines were Spedeworth International (East Anglia) which runs speedway venue Foxhall Stadium in Ipswich.

In October, it was ordered pay £118,000 in fines and costs in relation to a series of breaches dating back to 2013.

Saxlingham Thorpe-based animal feed maker WL Duffield and Sons was hit with a £50,000 fine in February of this year, after a worker lost his little finger back in April 2016.

In a high-profile case last month workman Robert Churchyard was jailed and the company he had worked for, Automated Garage Doors and Gates, was fined £12,000 after the death of Jill Lunn, who was struck by a heavy metal gate he had installed.

The pattern in the East reflected the national picture, in which fines were up by 80% despite a fall in the number of prosecutions.

Laura Thomas, partner at East Anglian law firm Birketts, said: “Fines have certainly increased locally; the guidelines seem to have given local judges the confidence to impose significant penalties in health and safety cases.”

The new guidelines break sentencing down into nine categories of severity. Judges must consider a defendant’s culpability, the seriousness of harm risked and the company’s turnover to decide the appropriate penalty.

Fines can range from £50 to £10m and there has also been a 2% rise in custodial sentences being handed out to individuals.

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