New Manslaughter Sentencing Guidelines

6th August 2018 Business Crime

The Sentencing Council have released new guidelines on sentencing in cases of Manslaughter. The most significant changes the new Guideline brings is a significant increase in sentences for offences of Gross Negligence Manslaughter. This offence is the most serious charge an individual can face following a fatal workplace incident.

There have recently been high profile cases heard in the Courts. Dr Bawa-Garba was recently convicted of the offence following the death of a young patient under her care. She received a two year suspended sentence. An individual was convicted of Gross Negligence Manslaughter after a fatal incident at Hanover Square. A stack of large unglazed frames collapsed on a member of the public as she passed by a building site. The supervisor at IS Europe Ltd was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment following a trial at the Old Bailey.

It is likely that sentences in these cases would be higher under the new Guideline.

Gross Negligence Manslaughter occurs where:

  1. An individual owes another a duty of care;
  2. The individual breaches the duty of care;
  3. The breach causes or significantly contributes to the death; and
  4. The breach of the duty of care is 'gross.'

The new Guideline follows a similar step-by-step approach we have become familiar with in health and safety cases.

The Guideline sets out a sentencing range of 1-18 years imprisonment. The sentence will be determined by firstly categorising the offence based on the culpability of the offender. The Guideline sets out categories A-D, category A being for offenders with 'very high' culpability and category D for those with 'lower' culpability. Next, any aggravating or mitigating features of the incident will be taken into account along with a number of other steps set out in the Guideline and the court will then be able to reach a decision on sentence.

The trend in health and safety cases is that regulators will suggest to the court that an offence is 'high culpability.' In cases of Gross Negligence Manslaughter the Guideline sets out that this includes cases where:

The offender continued or repeated the negligent conduct in the face of the obvious suffering caused to the deceased by that conduct;

  • The negligent conduct was in the context of other serious criminality;
  • The offence was particularly serious because the offender showed a blatant disregard for the very high risk of death;
  • The negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain (or the avoidance of cost); and
  • The offender was in a leading role.

The starting point for an offence of Gross Negligence Manslaughter which falls into the high culpability category would be one of eight years imprisonment.

The Guideline will apply to all offenders sentenced on or after 1 November 2018. If you wish to discuss this or any other health and safety matters please contact us.

Contact our team:

Sahar Handford. Mike Rainford. Sam Healey.

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Sahar Handford is a Senior Associate located in Manchester in our Business Crime & Regulation department

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