The new Sentencing Council guidelines for Health and Safety offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene offences came into effect on 1st February 2016. Link to the guidelines can be found from here:
Recent press articles have been highlighting the effect these guidelines will have on cases brought to court from 1st February 2016. Some articles have the tendency to cause food business owners to panic but is there a real case for this?
While the guidelines have a tendency to impose greater punishment, we must remember that prosecution is still the last result for most local authorities. Before a food business is prosecuted and taken to court, it would have been given a number of options and opportunities to comply with legislation. Therefore provided a food business complies with advice, warning letters, legal notices it is very unlikely that it will get prosecuted.
There will always be exemptions to the rule e.g. a food poisoning outbreak, food fraud etc. but generally all local authorities have an enforcement policy that they have to follow. The first step of action is rarely prosecution.
So don’t panic when you see extreme headlines regarding the new sentencing guidelines. The guidelines have not changed the approach of local government. The most important thing is that you ensure you have good systems in place, and maintain good practices. If that is in place, there is nothing to worry about.
By Bisi Oladipupo