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IMPORTANT HEALTH & SAFETY LEGAL UPDATE - England and Wales

Important Legal Changes

TWO IMPORTANT LEGAL CHANGES COINCIDE

Here in the UK, two circumstances have made the need for paying attention to health and safety systems even more important.

The first is that for all health and safety at work cases committed AFTER 12TH MARCH 2015, upon conviction Magistrates can now impose unlimited fines. Prior to this, Magistrates would have to refer a court upwards to Crown Courts if they felt that their sentencing powers might be insufficient.

The second is that a recent High Court Ruling (R v Boardman 2015),  held that Criminal Procedure Rules (CPR) demand that both sides (prosecution and defence) must rigidly comply with court deadlines or risk not having their case heard or fully heard as they might have wished. In short, one side attempted to present evidence to the other only a few days ahead of the trial date and this was held to be far too late. The evidence was therefore excluded and they 'lost' the case. 

The combined effects are firstly; that health and safety cases might now be more likely to be tried at Magistrates Court so no reliance should be put upon having further time to prepare beyond this trial date. And secondly; that the investigation of circumstances and administration by both prosecution and defence should be completed well ahead of this time or risk having their case decided upon without the court considering all potential evidence. For the defence this might include for instance, thorough accident investigation, statement taking, examination of records etc.

It is also necessary to have any mitigating circumstances prepared such as improvement in health and safety management systems which have been implemented developed and established as a result of the incident or accident ahead of a trial date. 

In practical terms if a company might be prosecuted, even if the enforcing authority might take some time to decide whether or not to prosecute (a period of a year or more is not exceptional), then it needs to start seeking advice, preparing their defence and or mitigation early so that if a prosecution follows, they are able to meet the court’s timetable right away.

 

 

Here at The Safety Organisation, we are able to use our skills and knowledge with accident investigations and after-event improvements in health, safety and welfare systems but we very much prefer to help our clients to avoid investigation and litigation and protect their reputations  by helping them to have top level occupational health and safety compliance systems which prevent this from happening as a preferred option.