James and Sarah consider two recent Court of Appeal Hearings and its significance following National Asbestos Awareness Week.

 

Two recent Appeal court hearings have reduced the fines imposed on the defendants for different reasons. Would you benefit from the courts stance?

 

In the first case, a company, London NPS, argued that they should have been treated as a small organisation rather than a large organisation under the Sentencing Guidelines. This would have a direct effect on the fine imposed on them. The Sentencing Guidelines are used by the courts to determine the suitable sentence passed on a defendant. The Court of Appeal ruled in the Appellant’s favour on the basis that each incorporated company is a separate legal entity. This is significant and useful to know when an organisation is operating in a group structure. It shows that the courts will treat the offender as the company that was guilty of the act. The fine was reduced from £370,000 to £50,000 as a result of this. This is not just applicable to asbestos matters, but also health and safety matters as the same considerations apply to company sizes. Smaller companies with larger groups of companies may be protected from paying for subsidiary company’s mistakes.

The second appeal concerned the court’s determination of the level of the “likelihood of harm” in a case appealed by the Squibb Group, again this relates to the Sentencing Guidelines. The court criticised the Judge that sentenced the matter for failing to explain why he had disregarded scientific evidence submitted at the trial by the defendant. The court commented that long term risks of this nature are inheritably difficult to assess and quantify and any estimate must be subject to a wide margin of error. The court went on to say that this is not a reason to reject or disregard whatever scientific evidence is available and a rational approach for a Court to adopt these circumstances is to rely on the best evidence that it has. The court reduced the fine from the likelihood of harm from medium to low and reduced the original £400,000 fine to £190,000. The guidelines set out the seriousness of the offence by considering a number of factors, including harm. The significance of this case is relevant for any business that has had work done and/or obtained reports in respect of asbestos, or indeed other issues, as these assist in cases such as this. As with most things, preparation is the key here and by keeping reports and other documents they could assist many years in the future.

Although asbestos was banned in 1999, it is still present in at least half a million buildings constructed before this time. It is important that companies are aware of their responsibility to manage exposure to asbestos whether it’s by creating an asbestos survey, regularly reviewing any work that is done to a property, and sharing information with those affected by their use/role in the building.

If you are concerned or not sure whether you are responsible for managing asbestos exposure and to what extent in relation to your legal obligations then please contact James or Sarah to discuss.

B&Q have pleaded guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act following an incident at their Kidderminster store which resulted in a pole from a promotional display falling on a customer, causing serious head injuries.

The court fined B&Q £300,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £8,000.  The court heard that B&Q had failed to examine the display as part of daily checks at the store, which would have shown that retainer clips had not been fitted, which meant the signage was not secured.

It’s clear from this case the importance of checking your premises regularly, particularly those temporary structures that may be marketing/advertising displays.

Although the fine appears large enough, B&Q managed to reduce the potential fine by quickly taking action following the accident; this included removing all of the display banner poles to ensure that a similar incident would not occur. In addition it pleaded guilty to the offences which allowed a reduction in the overall fine handed down by the court by up to a third. If not for these prompt actions the fine would have been much higher.

The lesson from this case is any change within a business should be assessed for risks by way of risk assessment and regularly reviewed. Temporary changes to your premises or operations which last for one day or for a couple of weeks still need the same level of scrutiny as long established fixtures and processes. Whilst in this case the source of the accident was an incorrectly constructed advertising display, how many short term measures do you introduce to your business each year and how carefully do you check their health and safety impact of doing so?

James and Sarah consider the Sentencing Council’s report published this month into the Health and Safety sentencing.

The sentencing guidelines are used in courts to promote greater consistency in sentencing for health and safety offences. The guidelines came into force in February 2016. The Sentencing Council have now prepared a report into the effectiveness of the guidelines.

As anticipated, fines have increased overall for organisations after the guidelines came into force. In particular, fines have seen a considerable increase for larger organisations, those that have an annual turnover of £50 million and over. The report states that in the 10 months prior to the sentencing guidelines being in place, the median fine amount was £12,000. In the 10 months after the sentencing guidelines were published, the median fine amount increased to £60,000. That’s an increase of 400%! Fine amounts increased for all sizes of organisations, although the Sentencing Council have commented that they did not anticipate fines to rise for individuals – they have!

Mitigating and aggravating factors in the context of sentencing are those circumstances which may reduce(mitigating) or increase (aggravating) the sentence accordingly. Interestingly, the report states that mitigating factors were cited much more frequently than aggravating factors (90 percent of cases compared with 50 percent, respectively). On average, around two mitigating factors were cited in the report considered. This contrasts with aggravating factors where, on average, less than one aggravating factor was cited in each case. The most common aggravating factors cited were ‘previous convictions’ and ‘cost-cutting at the expense of safety’. We cannot stress the robust stance courts take when ‘cost cutting’ is demonstrated as a factor in the offence.

So what should we take from this? Clearly fines are increasing. The most stark difference is that of fines given to any organisation regardless of size are now routinely significant and in some cases terminal for the viability of that business.

The likes of Poundstretcher, Tata Steel, Tesco, and Stagecoach have all been handed fines of £1 million or more after breaching health and safety law in the last year. The £1 million fine is becoming the new ‘norm’ in the health and safety arena.

James, after an extensive and very competitive process, has been appointed a Coroner for the County of Durham and Darlington. James is now responsible with his fellow Coroners to investigate violent and unnatural deaths in this area, together with other deaths which the law specifies require scrutiny such as deaths in police and prison custody.

This is a prestigious appointment for James and reflects on the expertise he has in the investigation of deaths, particularly in the workplace setting.

This is a part time appointment for James and he will continue with the firm dealing with all regulatory matters as well as representing clients at inquests where they require guidance and support.

We all, at the firm, wish James well for his appointment and should you have any questions touching upon inquests and investigation of death, James will only be too happy to answer them for you.

Anna Mathias

Posted by Woods Whur | Woods Whur

It is with great sadness that we learned over the weekend of Anna’s sudden passing. Everyone at Woods Whur is devastated at the loss of a fabulous work colleague and friend. Anna was only in the office a week ago and as usual, she filled the place with her own special personality.

We were delighted when Anna agreed to join us in February 2015 as Andy and I had known, respected and liked her for many years. Even when she was on the other side of cases, she was fair and decent and we held her in the highest of regards.

Very soon after she joined us, we realised that we were very lucky. Not only was Anna a superb technical lawyer, an immensely hard worker who was loved by her clients she was most of all, a beautiful kind-hearted person that lit up our office. Her eccentricities helped to make her an even more special person to be around. Turning up for a meeting with me at Kings Cross with Poppy Terrier on a lead, getting on the wrong train home after her 50th Birthday celebration….and ending up staying the night in Harrogate, are just a few examples of her unique and loveable character.

Talking to her clients yesterday has made Andy and I realise how respected she was within her circle. Some very emotional conversations have made us realise how her personal approach and professionalism, had touched the lives of many within our industry.

Two special occasions stand out for us. We held a surprise 50th Birthday party for Anna just after she had become engaged to Viv and we had a fantastic day with Anna, capped off by her night in Harrogate. The real highlight was seeing her reaction when we won the Yorkshire Legal Awards Best Niche Law Firm in October last year. She was the natural representative for the group photo, and she danced the night away.

All of our love is with her Mum, Brother and fiancé Viv as they go through the worst of times.

It will never quite be the same at Woods Whur without our lady in red.

Rest in peace Anna, you will forever be in our hearts.

 

We would like to pass on our thanks to Simon Thomas for letting us use the auditorium in the Hippodrome Casino and also to our external speakers, Philip Kolvin QC, Ben Haden from the Gambling Commission and Kerry Simpkin from Westminster Council.

We had a fantastic mixed audience from all parts of the gambling industry – online, traditional land based betting and casino operators, bingo operators, the Lotteries sector – a broad spectrum of clients and also representatives of a number of licensing authorities.

Philip Kolvin opened up our conference and gave a fantastic presentation on risk.  A significant number of delegates commented during the break how thought-provoking this was. Philip was followed by Andy who dealt with review of recent cases and issues. There are some significant cases of note in Gambling Law as the Regulator has definitely sharpened its focus of dealing with problem operators.

James Thompson, the Head of our Regulatory team then looked at the significant issues of the sentencing guidelines changing on prosecutions for regulatory breaches, and also some very topical issues in relation to data protection and the changes in legislation. Big thanks to James who had to leave home in Newcastle at 3.30 in the morning so as to get to London to deliver his presentation.

Anna Mathias gave the audience her lotteries update which came with perfect timing, as she has just been appointed to the Board of the Lotteries Commission for Great Britain.  The lotteries operators in the audience found her update particularly interesting and pertinent to their sector.  We are very proud that she now sits on the Board of such an important and worthwhile organisation.

In the second half of the conference we had Ben Haden from the Gambling Commission who gave a very interesting insight into the national policy being promoted by the Gambling Commission in 2018. Some interesting changes of focus can be seen in his presentation as the direction of travel for the GC starts to change.

After Ben gave us the national picture, Kerry Simpkin highlighted the Gambling perspective from Westminster Council, explaining what their Licensing Authority expects to see in terms of risk assessment and how their new statement of licensing policy is going from 60 to 353 pages.

Andy and Anna brought the conference to a close with a compliance, regulation and challenges presentation.  This gave the audience a good understanding of some of the regulatory impacts that are challenging  and will further challenge the gambling sector.

We thoroughly enjoyed the day and in particular, the questions and issues raised by delegates in my wrap up session.

If you would like a copy of any of the materials used at the conference, please email sarah@woodswhur.co.uk, who will be happy to assist.

If there are any questions from those who attended the seminar or those who unfortunately could not attend, then Andy, Anna, James and myself would be delighted to deal with those direct enquiries.

Paddy Whur

Anna has been retained as standing adviser to the Board and its membership for around a decade and we believe that this appointment will, amongst other things, facilitate the free-flow of on-the-spot advice on regulatory matters at Board meetings.

Anna is pleased to accept this appointment and is keen to support the Council in any way she can.

This is a pivotal time for the society lotteries sector. We are seeing the amendments to financial limits on proceeds, profits and “good causes” percentage being considered by Government, dealing with the latest Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice changes focusing on society lotteries, digesting the latest Audit Report on the National Lottery and anticipating the next National Lottery bid competition.

At the same time, the sector is going from strength to strength, with over £255m being raised for good causes last year, based on Gambling Commission figures – a rise of over £43m on the previous year. The contribution to the “good cause” out of ticket sales also rose from an already impressive 43% to 43.6%. During the same period, the Lotteries Council also saw its biggest ever increase in membership – up by 12% year-on-year, with a particular increase among Local Authorities who run lotteries – their membership swelled from 5 to 22.

The Lotteries Council is an influential and powerful body when it comes to lobbying for changes in the society lotteries sector, to maximise the amounts raised for good causes whilst, at the same time, promoting social responsibility.

Anna Mathias has been working with Walker Morris to advise Football League clubs on gambling advertising on their kit, after the Magpies were fined by the FA for displaying an advertisement for a betting company on its youth team shirts

Anna Mathias has collaborated with Walker Morris LLP in issuing urgent advice to Clubs in the Football League regarding the display of gambling advertisements on kit. This is in the wake of Newcastle United receiving a £7,500 fine from the Football Association after admitting a breach of its Rules by allowing the logo for its main sponsor, China-based betting firm Fun88, to appear on its youth team shirts. The advice is attached.

https://www.walkermorris.co.uk/app/uploads/2018/05/Gambling-Advertising-under-18s-players-and-under-18s-coaches-May-2018.pdf

The wealth of legislation, guidance, codes of practice and other red tape can seem insurmountable at times.

The significant increase in financial penalties for health & safety, food safety and other regulatory matters only adds to the worry of a failure in any of these areas.

Our long standing experience of representing clients through regulatory problems has allowed us to identify the reoccurring issues where our clients fall foul of the regulatory authorities or in civil claims.

No matter what the size or breadth of your operations, the standards are the same and the need to comply does not vary due to size, location, profitability or any other factor.

James Thompson, our Head of Regulatory, has through many years of experience, seen a wealth of issues facing clients, but there are some which constantly recur time and time again.  Clients are well advised to think about them when conducting their day to day business.

James’ top 10 problems for businesses are

1. Asbestos management.

The obligations on you if owning or controlling premises are stringent in terms of managing asbestos.  It is not enough just to assume there is no asbestos in a premises that you own, let or in some way control.  There has to be a positive assessment of the building for asbestos and if identified, the asbestos in situ managed, and the information regarding its location and condition shared with those who may come into contact with it.

Whether you are refurbishing premises, or simply operating from them, a proactive approach has to be taken.  Even without the risk of a disturbance/exposure, the absence to manage will attract criminal penalties and certainly if anyone is exposed to it, civil claims will undoubtedly follow.  The aftermath of any exposure triggers a number of responsibilities which you must act on quickly to minimise your criminal and civil liabilities

2. Fire safety

The Grenfell Tower disaster has brought fire safety well in to the public’s thoughts and not withstanding any subsequent changes to fire safety legislation, the need to comply with all the obligations, is as important as it ever has been.

The cornerstone to any successful defence or proceedings for fire safety breaches is a comprehensive and an appropriate fire risk assessment together with training and monitoring arrangements.  The fire service will look to this document as a starting point to discover your arrangements in terms of fire safety and satisfying them on this goes a significant way to satisfying them on any other concerns that they have.

Ensuring that this is in place and making sure that it is implemented are key to compliance in this area

3. Waste management/fly tipping

Just because you don’t operate a landfill site, a recycling plant or deal with packaging waste by the hundreds/thousands of tonnes does not mean that this area of regulation escapes you.

The simple act of putting waste bins out for collection too early for your collection arrangements could attract a fixed penalty notice or fine.  Simple breaches such as this can attract enforcement notices which compel you to make particular waste disposal arrangements which could be costly in lots of ways to the business.

It is sometimes overlooked by businesses, that the obligations you have for waste management are incumbent on you, it is important to avoid prosecution and simply relying on a waste management contractor is not enough, to protect you.

4. Fatal accidents/inquests

This is the area where individuals and their businesses can experience the most terrifying experience in all their years in business.  The death of an employee or a third party attracts the attention not only of the Police, Health And Safety Executive or local authority, as well as the Coroner, but civil claims, media attention and your workforce.

Successfully managing all of these different groups and organisations, all with conflicting potential agendas, can seem overwhelming.  Ensuring access to specialist advice is crucial in protecting you and your business against a situation that could last for many years, with significant consequences to all concerned.

5. Food safety

Whether you are a manufacturer, retailer or involved in its preparation, all elements of food safety have the potential, if they go wrong, to fatally damage your business.

The need for a robust system of training and procedures to ensure the integrity of the food that you produce, serve and sell is critical, in addition to effective supervision.

If the worst happens and you are investigated or prosecuted, we can help you and have successfully defeated a number of prosecutions, particularly where clients have been able to demonstrate that their systems are sufficient, but individual employees have failed to carry out what the client’s systems and training requires.

6. Notices

Notices, whether they are Improvement, Prohibition, Food Hygiene, Waste Management or Fire Safety, are a significant “sanction” in the hands of a regulator.  Unfortunately,  on a number of occasions, clients do not recognise their importance until potentially they are too late.

These notices can restrict and in some cases, end businesses when they are widely drafted, vague and too restrictive.  It is essential to ensure notices, where they cannot be complied with or are unreasonable, are appealed and defeated or varied to make them more proportionate.

We regularly assist clients in this process and prompt action upon receipt of any notices is essential to prevent the consequences of an ill-judged notice.

7. Contractor Management

Despite all of the safeguards, training and procedures you can develop and implement for your own employees, how sure are you that any contractors you engage are similarly responsible?

Regularly, we see prosecution of clients where their contractors have let them down, and in so doing, have attracted a prosecution.

Ensuring clear demarcations of what contractors should be undertaking on a task and what you will be undertaking are important to ensuring that in the event of an accident the responsibility and in some circumstances the blame, can be apportioned correctly.

Carrying out the appropriate due diligence before appointing contractors and vetting their documentation are equally as important and unfortunately on many occasions, overlooked.

Making sure you have the most appropriate contractor to undertake the role is vital and we can help in the due diligence process and making sure that all parties know what their responsibilities are.

8. Regulatory Visits

Unfortunately, time and again clients suffer investigation and prosecution due to their employees not recognising the importance of prompt and effective action when they are subject to a regulatory visit.  Regularly, inspectors call at premises and are not treated with the importance that their presence requires.  The absence of documentation on site for inspection, examples of poor practice and staff who are unclear on their duties and responsibilities all can trigger an investigation and prosecution.

It is essential to ensure that all staff know the powers of the regulators that could call, what they can and can’t do and how to deal with them.

The reassurance an employee can give to inspectors in the initial few minutes of a visit, can be a difference between a prosecution and not.  We can help train staff on what they should and shouldn’t be doing, as well as provide checklists and other documentation to assist on how to deal with visits and what potentially can develop from them.

9. Preventing Claims – Accident Investigation

Experience has shown that prompt investigation of all accidents and near misses is a powerful deterrent to personal injury claims, it can also defeat criminal prosecutions.  Where accidents are not investigated promptly and thoroughly, they allow employees potentially to exploit this in claims, which insurers or you  cannot defend and the same is true of customers and other third parties.

If there is no investigation then simply in most cases this means that the Claimant or Prosecution’s version of events is accepted if you can do nothing to challenge it.  We have helped clients over a number of years create efficient and comprehensive, but simple accident investigation protocols, assisted with investigations ourselves and this has translated into the successful defence of claims and prosecutions.

10. Documentation and Systems

Without the relevant documentation and systems to demonstrate legal compliance, we have seen that clients are doomed to continually have to settle claims and the associated increased premiums that brings or pay large fines in Court for failings.  Had appropriate systems existed it could have demonstrated a vindication of a client’s actions or mitigate the amount of costs, damages or fines paid.

The need to constantly review your documentation and systems is essential to achieve compliance, but all too often it is overlooked at a client’s cost.

We have helped prepared and implement procedures and systems than can protect your business whatever the problem could be.

In this article, Andy Woods looks at the new version of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) and, in particular, highlights some of the key changes.

In many ways the LCCP should be the heartbeat of any gambling business and should form the basis of policies and procedures implemented by all gambling operators.  The Gambling Commission (“GC”) defines the LCCP as setting out “the requirements you must meet in order to hold your operating licence and your personal licence.  It is a very important part of running your business…”

It is a general requirement of the LCCP that all operators keep themselves up to date with any changes to legislation and to the LCCP and it is extremely important that operators understand that the LCCP is a changing document and updates and that amendments are made regularly, to take into account developments and innovations in the industry and to set out the most effective way of promoting the licensing objectives, in particular, promoting social responsible gambling.

The LCCP is not a “one size fits all” document, as there are sector specific sections and, if at all possible, the GC will make it clear what it expects operators to achieve in certain policies and procedures but allows them to write their own policies and procedures to deal with its requirements.  What is relevant to a Mayfair Casino dealing with high stake customers may not be relevant to an operator who only trades one betting shop.  However, the general principles that both will have to abide by remain the same.

The latest LCCP came into effect on 4 April 2018 and there are particular changes relating to Society Lotteries and the regulatory data that is to be provided to the Gambling Commission.  These were the two matters that the Gambling Commission consulted on in 2017.  There have also been minor changes to the social responsibility code provisions 3.5.3 and 3.5.4 and an update to the reference for the online portal for information at 15.3.1.

  1. The requirement to report the number of Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”) on regulatory returns has been removed and the information on discounted relationships will be collected through the key events reporting mechanism (via the eService Portal on the GC website). This change to the LCCP requires discounted relationships to be reported alongside information on SARs as key events.
  2. Information about game faults which result in over- or under-payment to customers needs to be reported as a key event.
  3. The existing requirement to report group advertising to a new jurisdiction has been widened to include a new requirement to report where there has been sustained/meaningful generation of the 3%/10% threshold being passed for the wider group.
  4. The definition of “low frequency lottery” has been updated to include those lotteries offered by local authorities.
  5. A new social responsibility code provision has been added to require operators to publish the proportion of lottery proceeds returned to the purposes of the society or local authority.

I am sure that some of the above points will come up at our seminar at The Hippodrome Casino on 8 May 2018.  There are still a few places available and if you would like to come please contact sarah@woodswhur.co.uk.

If you have any questions in the meantime on the above, please do not hesitate to contact me.