UCL News


Regulators 'need new tool kit of sanctions' to deal with lawbreakers

23 May 2006

Increased fines for companies that flout the law and a more flexible penalty system were proposed yesterday by an independent government-appointed review.

While criminal prosecution would remain for the most serious breaches of regulations, regulators should be given a new tool kit of sanctions, said Richard Macrory, Professor of Environmental Law at UCL, who led the review of the penalties for regulatory non-compliance.

These should include the ability to levy administrative fines and to issue statutory notices and enforceable undertakings. But it should also include "restorative justice" where companies would not necessarily be fined or prosecuted but make reparation to victims. …

"Rogue businesses who intentionally flout the law for economic gain should be treated as the criminals they are," said Prof Macrory. …

A "far more flexible system of regulatory sanctions" was also needed that provided "better incentives for legitimate businesses to comply with regulations".

Many regulators, he said, were over-reliant on just one tool, the criminal prosecution, when that could be a disproportionate response to the offence.

At the same time, for those who intentionally broke the law, many court fines were "not a significant deterrent", he said. …

The UK had "lagged behind other nations" such as Germany, Sweden, the US and Canada in introducing administrative penalties. But before they were given such powers, regulators should be required to adopt risk-based enforcement, a clear enforcement policy and transparent methodologies.

Nicholas Timmins, 'Financial Times'