By Richard B Macrory, on 12 November 2012
On 8 November 2012, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise gave a statement to Parliament outlining the Government’s future policy on civil sanctions. New powers concerning a range of civil sanctions were contained in Part III Regulatory Sanctions and Environment Act 2008 following a Review by Professor Macrory.
The powers have to be transferred to particular areas of regulation by subsidiary Orders, and at present these have largely been confined to a small area of environmental regulation. The Coalition Government has been concerned whether the new sanctions give too much power to regulators who can impose financial penalties without going through the courts. Those served with a penalty notice may appeal to the Regulatory Tribunal and under current orders there is a presumption of innocence with the burden of proving a case resting on the regulator.
In future, according to the Statement, Orders will generally only been permitted where the power to impose civil sanctions in the form of financial penalties is confined to larger companies, i.e. those with more than 250 employees. Other forms of sanctions such as Stop Notice and Compliance notices, and the power to negotiate an Enforceable Undertaking can be made available to any size of company.
The policy relates to England only. Devolved powers means that wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may develop distinct policies.
Professor Macrory commented : “After months of uncertainty, the announcement at least clears the political air. The new approach to regulatory sanctions contained in the Regulatory Enforcement and sanctions Act has not been abandoned, though smaller and medium sized companies may not necessarily welcome being excluded from key elements of the new system”