Investigations and prosecutions by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are on the increase; the number of company directors and senior managers prosecuted for health and safety offences had more than trebled in a year (to March 31 2016), according to figures from the HSE. It also stated that the majority of director prosecutions relate to SME businesses.
If you are facing potential prosecution by the HSE, the survival of your business could very well be at risk, as well as your liberty. With increased sentencing powers available to the courts and hefty fees for intervention, the impact could be monumental.
We understand how daunting the prospect of court proceedings can be and we are here to help you to try and avoid it. Our team has many years of experience defending cases on behalf of businesses and individuals who have been prosecuted by the HSE.
Some recent cases include:
- HSE v H – Woolwich Crown Court – Prosecution following a fatal accident on building site
- HSE v L – Aylesbury Crown Court – Prosecution relating to Gas Safe Register qualifications
- HSE v G – Formal interview under caution – Investigation relating to unqualified contractors
If an individual or business is found to be (or suspected of being) in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act or any related safety regulations, the first step is to invite the individuals (usually those with direct responsibility or in senior positions) to be interviewed under caution. It is essential that anyone ‘invited’ for a formal interview under caution should seek immediate legal advice before making any decision on attendance; there really is no such thing as ‘being invited in for a chat’ anymore. On the contrary, these interviews are an evidence gathering exercise and the fact that there is an intention to formally caution you and record the discussion indicates a belief that you may have committed an offence which could lead to prosecution in the criminal courts.
Coyle White Devine can help you from the outset and provide the very best legal advice at the earliest possible stage. You are not always obliged to attend interviews but, in any event you have a legal right to be represented. This is something that you must give serious consideration to.
If prosecution is ultimately unavoidable, our team are here to provide a wealth of experience in dealing with HSE prosecutions. We will provide sound, comprehensive advice through every stage of the proceedings and representation by expert advocates.