The client was charged with four offences contrary to Regulation 19 of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 following an inspection by Birmingham City Council Environmental Health Officers on 5 December 2016. The inspection was conducted as a result of a sighting of a mouse at the client’s premises, a popular restaurant in Birmingham city centre.
The Council found mouse droppings, a number of holes throughout the main premises allowing pest ingress, a build-up of dirt on ledging behind the dishwasher and touch points, and a pot of cottage cheese past its use by date.
As a result of the inspection the Council served our client with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice and the business was formally closed for two days.
The client contacted Harrison Clark Rickerbys after being summoned to appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. The client had already attended an interview under caution where full and frank admissions had been made.
Following the provision of comprehensive advice by Harrison Clark Rickerbys, the client accepted that it had little option but to enter a guilty plea to the charges, but that there was lots of mitigation that could be utilised to reduce the potential financial penalty.
Birmingham City Council opened the case for the prosecution, presenting photographic exhibits to the court in relation to the charges. They made representations to the court that the offences should be categorised as medium culpability, harm category 2 for which the starting point for each charge under the Definitive Guidelines is £4,000, with a potential upper limit of £8,000 per offence.
Due to the mitigation that was put forward at court by Laura Shirley on behalf of our client, the Court fined the company £4,000 in total (£1,000 per offence). The client was delighted with the result.
This case demonstrates the importance of seeking legal representation, even where a guilty plea is to be entered. The Definitive Guidelines provide courts with a prescriptive nine-step guide to follow when dealing with these matters, but the benefit of a good advocate can never be underestimated in pushing the fine down to the lowest possible level.
Laura was able to explain to the court that this was a company with a previously unblemished record, who had systems in place but these had not been sufficiently adhered to due to extenuating circumstances. In addition she explained to the court the steps that had been taken since the incident, including additional training for all staff and the implementation of new systems and procedures. In addition a food hygiene rating of 5 was awarded by Birmingham City Council in June 2017, the highest possible rating. The company pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.