With an increasing amount of legislation regulating business activities, both companies and individuals may find themselves being investigated or prosecuted for a variety of regulatory offences. Having experienced legal advice and support from the earliest opportunity can make all the difference to whether you are prosecuted or not and the outcome of any prosecution that does take place.
Our specialist Business Defence Team are highly experienced in representing clients facing investigations and prosecutions from local authorities, Trading Standards, the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and a wide range of other organisations. We have the expertise to successfully defend you against an action, or advise you on remedial measures and mitigating factors that can help to persuade the investigating authority that a warning will suffice.
As well as representing clients facing a regulatory investigation or prosecution, we can also help with preventative measures for your business so you can avoid the risk of regulatory proceedings. We can advise you on all regulatory law matters, including completing an audit of your business to ensure compliance and recommending any measures needed to keep your operations within the law.
Our regulatory offences services
Our regulatory offences solicitors work with a wide range of businesses in various sectors, offering advice, support and representation for issues including:
- Health and Safety investigations including representation at Inquests
- Town and Country Planning enforcement
- Environment Agency investigations (e.g. pollution, waste management)
- Director's duties and disqualification
- Financial and tax investigations
- Animal welfare and animal boarding establishments
- Road traffic offences (e.g. road haulage operator’s licences, overloading, speeding)
- Alcohol and entertainments licensing
- Consumer protection, consumer credit, trading standards
- Immigration (employing illegal workers)
- Gangmasters licensing
The penalties can be severe, ranging from substantial fines to lengthy periods of imprisonment.
Clients often ask us...
What are regulatory offences?
A regulatory offence is where a business or other organisation breaches regulations related to their activities that are a legal requirement, but are not prosecuted by the police. So, for example, if you fail to comply with UK health and safety legislation, this is a regulatory offence that will be investigated and prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) rather than by the police.
What to do if you are accused of a regulatory offence
Regulatory investigations and prosecutions can be highly complicated with serious penalties if you are found to have committed an offence. It is therefore absolutely essential to seek the advice of a legal team with experience in handling regulatory offences as soon as possible. This will give you the best chance of a successful defence, or help you to mitigate any penalties where an offence has been committed.
How are regulatory offences prosecuted?
A regulator can either choose to bring a private prosecution, or to refer the matter to the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a public prosecution.
Private prosecutions will generally be carried out in a magistrates’ court, although may be referred to Crown Court depending on the circumstances. If the offence is prosecuted by the police or CPS, it is more likely to be handled in Crown Court. The penalties can be much more severe if the offence results in a public prosecution.
Are regulatory offences criminal offences?
A regulatory offence may result in criminal proceedings if the regulating body considers that it is in the public interest for an offence to be dealt with as a criminal offence. This may be the case if the regulator feels that only the penalties that can be imposed through criminal proceedings are appropriate, for example, if someone has died as the result of major health and safety failings in an organisation.
Who investigates regulatory offences?
Who investigates a regulatory offence will depend on the type of offence as there are various different official bodies responsible for handling different types of offences. In the UK, some of the most common investigating bodies are local authorities, Trading Standards, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency. In the case of particularly serious offences, the matter may be referred to the police for investigation.
Can you be held personally liable for regulatory offences?
Depending on the circumstances, the owners or directors of a company may be held personally liable for regulatory offences. This will generally depend on what actions they took or failed to take with relation to the offence. This means that, as well as penalties for your business, you may also face personal consequences, including a fine or custodial sentence, depending on the severity of the offence.