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Regulatory prosecutions (2)

In their second article John Cooper and Simon Antrobus look at the sentencing principles that should be applied to corporate defendants

25 June 2004

Modern day corporations are subject to considerable regulatory control, from regulations relating to pollution, health and safety at work, food safety and hygiene, and trading standards to those governing financial and trade dealings. These are inevitably backed by criminal penal sanctions, often on the basis of strict liability offences. The commercial implications of such criminal sanctions used to be limited to small fines in the magistrates’ court with some unfavourable publicity in the local press. Now the changing consumer culture demands greater accountability from the business community. The courts have become far more enthusiastic in imposing high publicity fines, such as the recent £2m fine for Thames Trains, to send out a message to others in industry. The enforcement agencies are themselves publicising sentencing hearings, eg the Health & Safety Executive’s own website, to ensure that any adverse comments made by the judge or magistrates reach the general public. The...

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