Manslaughter sentence for gross negligence to be increased
New guidelines have been issued to judges which will increase prison sentences for people convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in a workplace setting.
The new guidelines have been published by the Sentencing Council and mark the first time that comprehensive directions have been drawn up for the most serious and difficult cases of manslaughter.
Under the guidelines, anyone convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence could face a prison sentence of up to 18 years.
Simon Joyston-Bechal of Turnstone Law explained that: “for typical workplace cases of gross negligence manslaughter, this guideline means that the starting point sentence will be four years imprisonment, with a range of three to seven years depending on other factors. But where there has been ‘a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death’ and/or a motivation to avoid costs, then the starting point would be eight years or even 12 years, with a range up to 18 years. That’s substantially more than in the past for these more serious cases.”
Simon Joyston-Bechal added that: “The draft guideline under consultation would have had a much more draconian effect, bringing typical workplace cases up from four years to the eight and 12 year starting points”, were it not for the Sentencing Council having made some key concessions in response to his comments in the consultation on behalf of the Health and Safety Lawyers Association.
Gross negligence manslaughter occurs when the offender is so seriously in breach of a duty of care towards the victim that it amounts to a criminal act or omission.
In a workplace setting, it could cover an employer who completely disregards the safety of their workers.
A total of 12 offenders were sentenced for the offence in 2016.
Last month, detectives at Scotland Yard admitted they are considering offences including gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act as part of their investigations into Grenfell Tower.
“Manslaughter is an extremely serious offence, causing immeasurable pain to families who lose their loved ones,” said Justice Minister, Rory Stewart.
“So, it is vital our courts have clear, consistent guidance in these often complex cases – such as when both individuals and employers are involved.
“These guidelines will make sure sentences reflect the severity of the crime, helping protect workers and keep communities safe,” added Mr Stewart.
Other types of manslaughter covered by the new guidelines include unlawful act manslaughter, which includes deaths from assaults where there was no intention to kill or cause very serious harm.
The guidelines also include manslaughter by reason of loss of control and manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, when a person has a recognised mental condition that prevents them from being convicted of murder.
Sentencing Council member Lord Justice Holroyde added: “Manslaughter offences vary hugely – some cases are not far from being an accident, while others may be just short of murder.
“While no sentence can make up for the loss of life, this guideline will help ensure sentencing that properly reflects the culpability of the offender and the unique facts of each case.”
The new guidelines will come into force in courts in England and Wales on 1 November.
SHP caught up with Simon following this report, to get a more in-depth view on what this news means. Click here to read more.
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