On the back of the sentencing guidelines being issued in Feb 2016, Mr Justice Holroyde, a High Court Judge and member of the Sentencing Council for England and Wales addressed the TIFSIP conference on the following points:
- For the first time, courts in England and Wales must now follow the sentencing council guidelines when issuing fines and determining punishment for food safety offences.
- The aim of these guidelines is to enable all magistrates to be able to achieve a level of consistency when passing fines for food safety offenses or individual sentences.
- Ultimately, the new sentencing guidelines will also act as a deterrent to prevent businesses and food proprietors from breaching food safety law.
- The case in point is that food businesses that put consumer health at risk could now face larger fines.
- Criteria which will be used by the courts to determine the sentencing of offences are as follows:
- The level of capability will need to be established and is broken down into 4 main categories: Very High (deliberate or flagrant breach of law), High (falling short of the appropriate standard), Medium (fell below high and low categories) and low (evidence that failings were minor and not systemic).
- The level of harm risked would need to be compared against the seriousness of the risk level which is broken down into 3 categories (serious to low). It important to note that actual harm does not need to have occurred, the offence is not managing the risk of harm.
- The organizational category of the company based on turnover will need to be established for sentencing purposes with ranges predetermined for very large companies to micro companies.
- The guidelines state firms found guilty of food offences could face fines between £100 and £3m.
- The most serious category of harm now includes offences that create ‘a high risk of an adverse effect on individuals’. This means smaller firms could receive fines of up to £450,000 and the largest firms could receive fines of up to £3m even if people are not actually hurt.
Ways for clients to limit exposure to prosecution:
- Ensure that the company as a minimum has a food safety management system based on HACCP principles.
- Ensure that all hazards and Critical Control Points are identified and monitored to eliminate or minimise that potential food safety risks.
- The Company food safety policy must be followed with particular focus placed on ensuring that due diligence temperature monitoring requirements are conducted and documented in the specified time scales.
- Ensure that all issues identified by EHO during formal food safety inspections are addressed.
- Ensure that significant findings raised during third party audits are addressed.
For additional information, the following link has been added below;