Max fines for EH offences to be quadrupled

Fines for most food hygiene, housing and safety offences imposed at magistrates courts could be increased by 400 per cent following new legislation laid before Parliament.

Magistrates will also be given ‘unlimited fine powers’ for offences that are currently capped at £5,000 under the proposals.

Julie Barratt, director of CIEH Wales and a barrister, said people found guilty of serious environmental health crimes could face much greater financial penalties.

‘We have been concerned to some time that fines for food hygiene and other environmental health related offences have not always reflected their risk to public health,’ she said.

‘These proposals would give magistrates the power to take a more sophisticated approach, tailoring fines to reflect the degree of neglect, criminality or risk to public health.’

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said: ‘Financial penalties set at the right level can be an effective way of punishing criminals and deterring them from further offending.

‘Magistrates are the cornerstone of our justice system and these changes will provide them with greater powers to deal with the day-to-day offences that impact their local communities.’

The proposed changes will give magistrates greater powers to impose increased fines on offenders in appropriate cases. ‘Level 4’ fines will be increased from £2,500 to £10,000.

The Ministry of Justice said the amount of fines collected reached an all time high of £284million at the end of 2012/13.

Last year the Sentencing Council published draft guidelines on how judges and magistrates should deal with environmental offenders.

The proposals attempt to match any fine with the seriousness of an offence. Magistrates, who are often inexperienced in dealing with environmental offences, would also be given consistent advice across the country.

The Sentencing Council said it expected fines to increase for those causing ‘the most damage or risk to health’.


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