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VESSEL AUDIT & INSPECTIONS CHANGES TO FINES


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are the main parties responsible for health and safety regulation of the UK offshore wind industry – the MCA for vessel related incidents and the HSE for installation and shore based incidents.


Two recent developments will see higher sentences for those who come before the courts for health and safety related offences.


1 The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Commencement No. 11 (Order) 2015 came into force during 2015 and raised the maximum penalty a Magistrates' Court can impose to an unlimited fine. Previously their powers had been limited.


2 New sentencing guidelines which came into force on 1 February 2016 have changed the way in which the Courts sentence companies and individuals found guilty of corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences. These are already leading to a significant increase in the sentences being imposed.


AND SENTENCING GUIDELINES


The guidelines set out a range of proposed sentences although the actual sentence depends on a number of different factors such as the degree of culpability of the offender, the harm caused and, in the case of companies, their annual turnover.


WORST CASE SCENARIO Looking at the worst case scenario the proposed fine for the worst health and safety offences by large companies (i.e. those with turnover in excess of £50 million) is a starting point of £4 million within a range of £2.6 million to £10 million. For the worst corporate manslaughter offences, the suggested fine for large companies is a starting point of £7.5 million and a range of £4.8 million - £20 million. The intention is that these fines will have a real economic impact on the perpetrators.


For individuals imprisonment is now a real possibility.


MARINE ENVIRONMENT – CASE IN POINT


Whilst the sentencing guidelines are aimed at offences under terrestrial health and safety legislation the Courts have already demonstrated their willingness to utilise them for similar offences under the Merchant Shipping Act.


In April 2016, one of the authors of this article, Andrew Oliver, prosecuted a case for the MCA relating to a breach of Section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, being the unsafe operation of a ship. Mold Crown Court heard how Master Alexander Baird had failed to manage his vessel ST AMANT in a safe manner.


Drills were not completed, crew were not certificated, the deck was cluttered, and safety equipment was not operational. The Court readily applied the new sentencing guidelines and in doing so sentenced Mr Baird to nine months imprisonment.


It is clear that the increased likelihood of more severe sentences for companies and individuals re-enforces the need to be ever vigilant where health and safety at sea is concerned.


Written by Andrew Oliver, head of the renewable energy group and Martin Collingwood a member of the group.


Andrew Jackson Solicitors Click to view more info


www.windenergynetwork.co.uk


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