Contamination of or interference with goods

Image credit: “Supermarket” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It is an offence for a person, with the intention to

(a) of cause public alarm or anxiety, or

(b) cause injury to members of the public consuming or using the goods, or

(c) cause economic loss to any person by reason of the goods being shunned by members of the public, or

(d) cause economic loss to any person by reason of steps taken to avoid any such alarm or anxiety, injury or loss,

to contaminate or interfere with goods (or make a threat to do so), or make it appear that goods have been contaminated or interfered with, or to place goods which have been contaminated or interfered with, or which appear to have been contaminated or interfered with, in a place where goods of that description are consumed, used, sold or otherwise supplied.

This offence carries a maximum of ten years imprisonment.

Likely sentence

Very few cases have come before the Court of Appeal for consideration. Still, in a food contamination case, the court made the following observations when rejecting an appeal against a sentence of three years imprisonment (guilty plea) where there was considerable personal mitigation:

  • The seriousness of offences of contaminating goods is indicated by the maximum sentence of 10 years;
  • The protection of the food supply is of great importance to society;
  • Food is purchased off the shelf by large numbers of people, including vulnerable people, and they are entitled to expect that there will not be pins and needles concealed within the food;
  • The courts must take a serious view of deliberate and persistent acts done to contaminate food in this way;
  • The potential for serious injury is obvious.

The court went on to say:

“Notwithstanding the personal mitigation, the seriousness of this offending by way of contaminating food on sale to the public must be marked. 

When sentencing the appellant, the judge stated that:

“It is important that those who consider contaminating food, as you did, to be sold to the unsuspecting public, realise how seriously the courts will view these offences.”

That approach is in our judgment correct and in the circumstances the sentence of three years was not excessive. Accordingly, this appeal against sentence is dismissed.”

If you are facing an investigation or criminal proceedings for this or any other alleged offence, get in touch with a member of our team who can expertly guide you through the law, procedure and likely outcomes.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact any member of our vastly experienced Criminal Defence team, for assistance with any criminal law related matter.

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