Specialist Solicitors For Environmental Health | Food Safety & Hygiene
Kangs Solicitors have defended a client director and his company in respect of a prosecution brought by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council under Regulation 19 of the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013 (‘the Regulations’).
Sukhdip Randhawa of Kangs Solicitors, who has over twenty years of experience in defending such prosecutions, was chosen by our client because of such experience.
Environmental Health Officers had attended our client’s wholesale distribution unit on the 14th April 2016 to carry out an inspection following a service request alleging mouse activity within the premises.
Access was given to Environmental Officers who discovered:
- Medium level of mouse activity.
- A large amount of debris close to the unit.
- Lighting in some parts of the warehouse being poor, making it difficult to undertake checks.
- Pallets stacked too high in the premises making the inspection difficult.
- Strong urine odour throughout the premises.
- Rat droppings amongst the pallets.
- Rat and mice droppings throughout the warehouse.
- Signs that food bags had been gnawed by rodents.
- No evidence of food safety training.
- No evidence of hazard analysis critical control point documentation.
As the Officers considered there was an imminent risk to health, our client was advised to close his premises voluntarily and he was requested to attend an interview under caution.
Unfortunately, our client was not legally represented at the interview with the result that he made various admissions that potentially, restricted the further conduct of his defence.
Our client and his company were charged individually with seven offences under the Regulations.
As part of the defence preparation Kangs Solicitors:
- Considered in detail the Regulations being enforced
- Obtained and examined in detail all of the case papers
- Discussed with our client his position at length and
- Took full and detailed instructions.
Important Defence Considerations
It was quite clear that our client had earnestly endeavoured to rectify the unfortunate errors that had occurred in that he:
- had changed his business premises, and also
- had attended courses to ensure that he and his staff members were fully aware of the requirements of the Regulations.
Given the background of the admissions made by our client in interview, Kangs Defence Team:
- liaised with the Council with a view to negotiating a favourable compromise in relation to offences admitted.
- submitted to the Council that this was our client’s first business venture and the offences simply reflected his business inexperience.
- Highlighted to the Council that procedures had been adopted to ensure that the offences committed would not be repeated.
Prior to the Hearing date and at the Hearing we:
- discussed the reasons for the original failings and the efforts made to rectify the situation with the Council at length and secured the withdrawal of the proceedings against our client upon the basis that the company alone remained responsible.
- drafted and agreed a Basis of Plea
- prepared and submitted the detailed mitigation supported by course certificates and photographic exhibits.
The Favourable Outcome
Having considered the detailed mitigation and supporting material, the Judge:
- commented that our client’s premises and procedures were now clearly very different to those the Environmental Officers had originally seen and that he was now working from modern and well-lit premises,
- accepted that our client was new to the business and that this had been a fast learning curve,
- further accepted that our client had, in fact, employed a pest control company from the outset,
- that no evidence of any complaints had been received by the Council and that
- there had been no actual contamination or consumption of contaminated food.
In all of these circumstances, the company was dealt with by way of a financial penalty in relation to one of the charges only, with no separate penalty being imposed for the additional six offences that the company had pleaded guilty to.
Furthermore, although our client’s company now enjoyed a multi-million pound turnover, the Judge accepted that the actual profit margins were small and in view of this, he was able to limit the financial penalty which he imposed.
Naturally, our client was overjoyed and jubilant with the outcome and expressed his gratitude to Kangs Solicitors for the way in which defences had been meticulously prepared for both him and his company.
How Can Kangs Solicitors Help You?
It is important for any business or individual facing an investigation, which may have criminal implications, to seek expert legal advice at the earliest possible stage to ensure that the welfare of those concerned can be protected as far as possible in the prevailing circumstances.
If you have a similar issue and would appreciate some early expert and robust advice please do not hesitate to contact our defence team through any of the following.