No one jailed in 10 years over health and safety deaths

Not a single person has been jailed over the last 10 years for health and safety offences, including where fatalities occurred, or for competition breaches.

The State’s independent legal advisory body said, in cases where people were given custodial sentences, all were suspended.

The Law Reform Commission conducted an analysis of sentencing information between 2005 and 2015, provided by the Courts Service.

In its Issues Paper on Suspended Sentences, the LRC found there were 33 convictions on indictment between 1996 and 2013 for competition offences, all relating to cartels.

Its findings noted a plea of guilty was a “persuasive factor” in the suspension of sentences in such cases.

“Although such offences are being perceived as more serious by the courts, the debate as to the appropriateness of sending non-violent, white-collar, offenders to prison may still hold a certain degree of sway,” it said.

The LRC paper also found:

  • Use of suspended sentences for a range of offences in the circuit court fell over 10 years, from 40% to 15% of all sanctions.
  • More suspended sentences than imprisonment sentences have been handed down for circuit court drug offences since 2013.

The LRC paper is seeking submissions from interested parties as to whether suspended sentences are applied appropriately and if there is a need for further sentencing guidance.

“The Commission’s Paper has also surveyed the use of suspended sentences concerning two corporate offences, namely convictions under competition law and under safety and health law,” said the document. “The Commission’s research indicates that all sentences of imprisonment in those cases have been suspended and that no person has been imprisoned to date.”

The paper, which runs to 135 pages, said there were 292 prosecutions for health and safety offences between 2005 and 2015. Of these, 226 were corporate offences and 66 involved individuals.

Fines were the predominant sanction, with amounts ranging from €400 to €2m for corporate bodies and from €200 to €50k for individuals.

The LRC report said 13 suspended sentences and three community service orders were handed down.

The LRC analysis reveals that 40% of sanctions in the circuit court for specific offences attracted a suspended sentence in 2006 — falling to 18% in 2015.

This included:

  • A drop from 37% to 6% for sexual offences.
  • A fall from 47% to 24% in assault cases.
  • A reduction from 37% to 19% for theft/robbery/fraud offences.
  • A drop from 27% to 9% for road traffic offences.
  • A reduction from 46% to 21% for drug offences.
  • A fall from 41% to 17% in firearms offences.

See www.lawreform.ie 


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