Our clients won’t, but others could if their actions result in wildlife crime convictions where fines that can be imposed by the Magistrates’ court on summary conviction are now unlimited.
This applies to many environmental offences. Previously, fines payable on conviction were capped, often at a statutory maximum of £5,000.
The new legislation has come about due to provisions in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012, which came into force on 12 March 2015. This is a significant expansion of the Magistrates’ sentencing powers.
The new provisions apply to all “summary” offences (which are always heard by the Magistrates’ court) and to “either way” offences when dealt with in the Magistrates’ (rather than the Crown) court. They apply to all offences committed after 12 March 2015.
Businesses are therefore are a risk of much higher sentences from the Magistrates’ court if environmental offences are committed.
The types of offences that will be affected would include the following:
The rationale behind the new provisions is to enable more proportionate fines to be imposed on “wealthy or corporate offenders or organisations” and to reduce the number of referrals to the Crown Court for sentencing, which can be time consuming and costly.
Until now, organisations have known what the ‘worst case scenario’ would be in terms of fines in the Magistrates’ Court because of the statutory cap on fines. That element of certainty has now gone for the higher level offences, which could make for more hotly-contested trials in the Magistrates’ Court.
The legislation is contained in section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Click here to read more.
Photograph by Graham Law
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