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Health and Safety Sentencing in Scotland

9th November 2016

In a recent decision, the Criminal Appeal Court has stated that Scottish courts should have regard to the 2015 Guideline from the Sentencing Council for England & Wales, as well as the Scottish case law, when setting penalties for offences by companies including breaches of health and safety.

These comments arose following an appeal against sentence in the sheriff court arising out of a prosecution of Scottish Power Generation Limited for an accident at Longannet Power Station in October 2014.  An employee had been badly injured by an escape of extremely hot and high pressure steam.

The sheriff had sought to apply the 2015 Guideline and imposed a fine of £1.75m.  The company had appealed against this sentence arguing that instead of applying the Guideline the sheriff should have followed guidance laid down in previous Scottish rulings.

The Appeal Court considered that Scottish judges should be encouraged to have regard to the English sentencing Guidelines but not to apply them in a mechanistic way.  In this particular case the Appeal Court decided a slightly lower fine would appropriate and substituted a fine of £1.2m for that fine fixed by the sheriff.

For further information, please contact David Forrester.

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