Guilty as charged? - Reduction in sentence for an early guilty plea in regulatory breaches
When a company faces prosecution for a regulatory breach, whether it’s a health and safety infringement, a food safety issue, a product liability problem or a trading standards action, reducing the risk to your business should be a priority.
New guidelines for reducing sentences in such cases came into effect on 1 June 2017. If there is a real case to answer, then to avoid the full financial and possible custodial sentences that a Magistrates Court might apply, a business can now reduce the penalties applicable by up to a third.
This can be done by entering an early guilty plea if appropriate and saving a great deal of Court and management time, as well as the adverse publicity which can arise during a prolonged hearing.
What does this mean?
Because these types of cases are usually not straightforward, and will often rely on detailed expert evidence, the guidelines allow for additional time for that evidence to be considered. This also means that the prosecution’s case has to be set out in advance and the defendant given the opportunity to take expert advice, both legal and factual, to ensure that they understand their position and whether a guilty plea is appropriate. Clearly, if it’s not, then your right to defend your position fully remains the same.
What should you do?
Prolonged regulatory prosecutions can have an adverse effect on your company’s management time, morale and reputation. So if they do occur, care should be taken to gather together and retain all available evidence quickly in document form or otherwise. Relevant personnel should be interviewed and statements taken, and expert guidance should be sought to ensure that you understand the key issues and potential liabilities.
Once that has been done, you will be in a position to assess your exposure, and if appropriate, take advantage of the new guidelines to reduce the financial damage to your business.
For further guidance, please contact Nina Dhillon, Associate – Dispute Resolution, to start a conversation.
Published: 21 Jun 2017