The new section 24(a) of the Sentencing Act 2002 (effective as
of 6 December 2014) means the court must adjourn proceedings to
enable enquiries to be made as to whether a restorative justice
process is appropriate. It applies if an offender has pleaded
guilty, if there are one or more victims of the offence, and if no
restorative justice has previously occurred in relation to that
This applies to health and safety prosecutions in just the same
way as it applies to what you normally think of as criminal
offending. In practical terms it means that if you intend to plead
guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act
you need to be prepared to attend a restorative justice process
with the victim (which could be the person injured and that
The purpose of the restorative justice conference is to allow
the victim to express how the offending has affected them, and to
allow the defendant to acknowledge the harm caused. The conference
process is typically broken into two parts, so that the coordinator
running the restorative justice process will meet with the parties
separately and then there will be a meeting of the parties
together. Ideally, you would be in a position to make an offer of
reparation at that conference, which would later be taken into
account at sentencing.
There have been many criticisms about the amendment which
includes the fact that it is mandatory with the result that it is
turning simple cases into complex drawn out cases. In instances
where there are multiple victims it is hard to get them all
together at the same time. It is causing delay as a result of
funding and capacity issues. There is work in progress to remedy
these issues but it is clear that restorative justice conferences
are here to stay and they will be a feature of health and safety
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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We discuss Robinson Helicopter Company Incorporated v McDermott  HCA 22 .
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