The Fire Industry Association (FIA) has welcomed the publication of new guidelines relating to the sentencing of organisations under a charge of Corporate Manslaughter.

The new Guidelines, published on 9 February 2010, are long awaited and follow the draft guidelines distributed in October last year. They are designed to assist courts in dealing with those that cause death through a gross breach of care or where a health and safety offence is a significant cause of death.

Graham Ellicott, CEO of the FIA, commented – “Since the introduction of the Fire Safety Order we have been calling for it to be effectively and rigorously enforced, and for those that breach the Order to be suitably punished. Fire remains a significant threat and companies that ignore their fire safety responsibilities need to know that, should a death occur due to their negligence, the full weight of the law will be brought to bear.”

The Sentencing Guidelines Council, publishers of the new Guidelines, state that organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter can be given up to seven-figure fines and rarely less than £500,000. The Guidelines also state that the level of penalty should not be linked to company turnover or profit, therefore meaning that it is a level playing field and that smaller companies are just as likely to be prosecuted as the larger companies.

In issuing the Guidelines, the Council underlined the point that “punitive and significant fines should be imposed both to deter and to reflect public concern at avoidable loss of life”.

Graham continues – “The statement issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council leaves no room for any misinterpretation. Fire deaths are, unfortunately, sometimes unavoidable, but we can no longer have a situation where peoples’ lives are threatened simply because an organisation is not meeting its statutory duty of care. These new guidelines will help to clarify the position and enable the Fire & Rescue Service to fully implement its role in enforcing the Fire Safety Order. “

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