Too Lenient Fine Appealed

In a recent Scottish case , a haulage company’s fine for breaches of health and safety law was increased from £3,750 to £30,000, after an appeal by HM Advocate.

The fine arose after a heavy wheeled loader, which was being transported on one of the haulage firm’s lorries, broke loose when the lorry was going up an incline. The loader rolled off the lorry, crushing a following car and killing one of the occupants.

The brakes of the wheeled loader were found to be defective and this was a factor in its breaking free of the securing chains. The chains used, however, failed to comply with guidance for such applications as contained in the Department for Transport Code of Practice entitled Safety of Loads on Vehicles.

In such cases, the following factors will normally be considered in mitigation:

  • a prompt admission of responsibility and a timely plea of guilty;
  • the actions taken to remedy deficiencies drawn to a defendant’s attention; and
  • a good prior safety record.

In court, the judge had placed a considerable degree of weight on the company’s financial position and its ability to pay when setting the fine. The Advocate considered the sentence too lenient and on appeal the sentence was increased.

Says John Kenneally “The eventual fine was twice the annual profit of the company for the prior year and clearly represents a determination by the court to emphasise the deterrent aspect of fines for health and safety breaches. Cutting corners on health and safety can be a very risky policy.”

The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.

© , July 2009

Please contact:

John Kenneally - Partner

DD +44 (0)20 7553 6001

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