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Greater fines proposed for Corporate Manslaughter firms

Companies found guilty of the new corporate manslaughter offence could be fined 10 per cent of their annual turnover under proposals published today.

The Sentencing Advisory Panel said firms could be fined an even higher sum for a particularly serious offence, or if they had previous convictions.

The new offence - due to come into force next April - is designed to make it easier to prosecute companies whose negligence causes a death.

A report by the SAP said its proposal could lead to larger fines than those previously handed out by the courts for health and safety offences.

It also suggested that large national companies convicted of the crime could be forced to publish details of the case in a newspaper, TV or radio advert.

The legislation allows courts to impose a 'publicity order' to name and shame offenders.

The SAP suggested ads also should have to be placed in trade journals, details of the conviction should be included in the company's annual report and shareholders notified.

Today's document said the starting point for a fine - in the case of a first-time offender who pleaded not guilty - should be 5 per cent of the company's annual turnover, calculated as an average over the previous three years, it said.

Aggravating or mitigating factors could lead to a fine of between 2.5 per cent and 10 per cent of turnover, with the worst cases leading to an even higher penalty, it added.

The panel also proposed setting a minimum fine for corporate manslaughter because fines against some small companies would be relatively low if based on their turnover.