Fewer HSE prosecutions, but longer times for cases to reach court
There were fewer than 400 prosecutions by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the 2018/19 period. This is a decrease of 23% from the previous year and over a third lower than the 2014/15 total of 600. However, it is taking longer for cases to reach court.
The drop-in prosecutions could mean that safety standards have risen in UK businesses and this has resulted in fewer accidents. There have also been technological advances in PPE (personal protective equipment) that have made workers safer.
Bruce Craig, a health and safety expert, has warned that it is short-sighted for businesses to believe that they can let health and standards slip because they think there is less chance of prosecution. There are a large number of HSE inspectors being trained who will soon be active in making sure that businesses maintain high safety standards.
Investigations into incidents are taking longer, probably because of the HSE performing more forensic and other time-consuming processes that provide the strong evidence needed to prosecute firms. It can take between three to four years or more for a case to get to court. Craig says that this can be detrimental to justice:
“The longer it takes between an incident occurring and it getting to court, the greater the risk that, due to the passage of time, the evidence of witnesses is not accepted at trial as being reliable or credible.”
He says that long delays are unfair to accident sufferers and their families, as well as those who are being prosecuted.