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Dominic Adamson KC acted for Whirlpool UK Appliances Limited in the Court of Appeal in a successful appeal against sentence. Lord Chief Justice Burnett delivered the judgment of the Court on 20 December 2017. The fine was reduced from £700,000 to £300,000. The case concerned a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The case is of significance in that the Court of Appeal grapples with two important issues on the level of the fine (i) the impact of very large organisation status and (ii) the impact of death. Whirlpool UK Appliances had a turnover of approximately £700m. The original fine had been based on a starting point of £1.2 m thereafter reduced for mitigation and guilty plea. In reducing the fine Lord Burnett indicated that the fact of death ‘would justify not only a move into the next category but to the top of the next category range’. However, Lord Burnett emphasised that the case was unusual in that it was an offence of both low culpability and low likelihood of harm arising stating that ‘a fine of the order imposed by the judge in this case [i.e. £700,000] would only have been appropriate if the factors weighing in the balance for the purposes of the Guideline had been different.’ He concluded his judgment stating that nothing in the judgment is intended to alter the policy of ensuring that organisations are made to pay fines that are properly proportionate.