Environmental Health enforcement policy

Determining whether a prosecution or caution is appropriate

We will attempt to administer the requirements of legislation through advice and assistance wherever possible. Occasionally, it will be necessary to consider instituting legal proceedings. Each case is unique and must be considered on its own facts and merits. However, we apply the same general principles to every case. When deciding whether to prosecute we will have regard to the evidential test in the code for Crown Prosecutors on prosecution policy. A prosecution will not be started or continued unless there is sufficient admissible and reliable evidence that an offence has been committed by an identifiable person, and unless there is a realistic prospect of a conviction. We will also consider any lines of defence which are plainly open to or indicated by the accused and to the public interest.

The public interest test

Factors for and against prosecution will be balanced carefully and fairly. Deciding on the public interest is not simply a matter of adding up the factors on each side but a consideration of how important each factor is in the circumstances of each case and an overall assessment made. The following considerations are taken from the code and adapted for public protection offences. Factors which are less relevant to public protection offences are not repeated here, but would still be considered if they were to be relevant.

Public interest factors in favour of prosecution

A prosecution is more likely when:

  • a conviction is likely to result in a significant sentence or to result in a confiscation or any other order
  • a weapon was used or violence threatened
  • there is evidence that the offence was premeditated
  • the offence although not serious in itself is widespread in the area where it was committed
  • there is evidence that the offence was carried out by two or more people acting together
  • the victim of the offence was vulnerable or has been left frightened
  • the offence was motivated by any form of discrimination against the victim’s ethnic or national origin, disability, sex, religious beliefs, political views or sexual orientation, or the suspect demonstrated hostility towards the victim based on any of those characteristics
  • the risk or nuisance presented to individuals, the public, the trade (including unfair competition between traders), the farming community, animal health and welfare, or the environment is significant or widespread
  • the defendant has acted fraudulently/dishonestly, wilfully or negligently or insufficient steps have been taken to prevent the offence
  • the defendant was in a position of authority or trust or the offence was committed in the presence of, or near to, a child
  • the defendant's previous convictions or cautions are relevant to the present offence
  • there are grounds for believing that the alleged offence is likely to be continued or repeated
  • the outcome of the prosecution may serve an important, informative purpose or might establish an important legal precedent or might act as a warning to others or would have a significant positive impact on maintaining community confidence
  • the defendant committed the offence while under an order of the court

Public interest factors against prosecution

A prosecution is less likely to be needed if:

  • the offence was committed due to a genuine mistake/misunderstanding (this must be balanced against the seriousness of the offence)
  • the loss or harm can be described as minor and was the result of a single incident, particularly if it was caused by a misjudgement
  • the defendant has put right the loss or harm that was caused within a reasonable period of time (but defendants cannot avoid prosecution simply because they have offered compensation)
  • the defendant has already been made the subject of a sentence and any further conviction would be unlikely to result in the imposition of an additional sentence or order
  • the defendant is, or was at the time of the offence, suffering from significant mental or physical ill health and medical evidence has been supplied, unless the offence is serious or there is real possibility that it may be repeated

Deaths at work

Where there has been a breach of the law leading to a work-related death, where we have health and safety enforcement jurisdiction, we will consider whether the circumstances of the case might justify a charge of manslaughter. We will liaise with the police, coroners and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and if they find evidence suggesting manslaughter, pass it on to the police or where appropriate the CPS. If the police or the CPS decide not to pursue a manslaughter case, we will bring a health and safety prosecution if that is appropriate. We will take account of the protocol for liaison for work-related deaths.