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Jack Murphy secures very low fine in prosecution of County Council

Jack Murphy, instructed by Colin Moore and Nancy Wesby of DAC Beachcroft, has secured a very low fine of £16,000 in an HSE prosecution of West Sussex County Council.

In circumstances where comparable local authorities have been considered “Very Large Organisations” and subject to very onerous fines in recent years, this case demonstrates that low sentences are still achievable.

The case concerned an injury to a teaching assistant whilst using a circular saw in one of the Council’s schools. The HSE alleged a range of training and monitoring failures on the part of the school’s staff. For the purposes of sentence it asserted that these failures comprised elements of high culpability, and gave rise to a high likelihood of harm. With an overall revenue budget far greater than the threshold for “large” organization, the Council was at risk of a very large fine, and the prosecution contended for a fine significantly more than £600,000 before reductions for mitigation.

In the event, the Court accepted Jack’s submissions on all key areas: finding that the Council’s culpability was low when set in the overall context of its operation and the significant safety measures taken; rejecting the Prosecution’s contention of high likelihood of harm; and applying a significant reduction to reflect the Council’s public body status.



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