The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and implications to companies

When the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (“the Act”) fully comes into force, it will apply to the following legislation that may directly affect your business:

– The Data Protection Act 1998

– The Competition Act 1998

– The Companies Act 2006

Companies and their officers will need to be vigilant of what they may have considered minor breaches of business legislation in the past the Act will create a number of potential criminal sanctions applicable to companies and their officers.

Changes the Act will introduce, include:

– The current statutory maximum penalty of £5,000 for certain offences will be removed and no maximum limit will apply unless the Secretary of State sets a new cap. The purpose of this is to enable Magistrates to impose what the Government considers appropriate fines for the corporate and more prosperous organisations and offenders.

– The fines shall also be increased for those offences that are currently capped at below £5,000 levels, but the actual amounts are yet to be determined.

– The levels of fines that officers and directors of a company may personally face are set to increase, but again the actual amounts are yet to be determined.

The number of prosecutions by Companies House demonstrates that it takes Companies Act 2006 breaches very seriously. Figures published for the previous two years reveal:

– 3,440 prosecutions for failing to file accounts.

– 1,703 prosecutions for failing to file annual returns.

Companies therefore must be on their guard and have adequate processes in place to ensure strict compliance to the Companies Act 2006 and the other relevant legislation affected by the new provisions coming into force.

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