Most corporations charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) plead guilty and agree to the fine proposed by the Ministry of Labour (MOL) prosecutor. Research shows that the average fine for such corporations is approximately $43,000.
However, there is another option. It is possible to plead guilty and proceed to a “sentencing hearing” where the prosecutor and the defence make submissions to the Justice of the Peace as to the appropriate level of the fine in the circumstances of the case.
Research has shown that the fines imposed under this process are approximately $23,000, or 45% lower than the fines negotiated by corporations with the MOL prosecutor.
The same outcomes apply to charges against individual defendants such as supervisors. The average fine for such persons who accepted the MOL’s proposed fine was approximately $5,000, as opposed to approximately $3,000 for individuals who pleaded guilty and asked the court to decide the amount of the fine. That’s 42% lower than fines negotiated with the MOL.
Although there is always a risk in placing your case in the hands of a third party (such as a Justice of the Peace), these statistics are quite compelling and suggest that significant consideration needs to be given to the option of letting the court decide the level of the fine.