New manslaughter guidelines have just been published. They will come into force on 1st November and mark the first time the Sentencing Council has provided instructions to courts on how to deal with offenders convicted of gross negligence manslaughter.
The guideline intends to increase jail terms for gross negligence manslaughter to fall in line with other manslaughter offences. Negligent employers and managers over the age of 18 in England and Wales who blatantly disregard employee safety could be sentenced to up to 18 years in prison under these guidelines.
An individual’s culpability would be put at the highest level for a longstanding and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by financial gain (or avoidance of cost), warranting a prison sentence between ten and 18 years. Evidence that the negligent conduct persisted for an extended period of time will result in a jail sentence between six and 12 years under the new guidelines. If the offender’s culpability is deemed to be a lapse in otherwise satisfactory standards of care, the jail term will be in the range of one to four years.
Aggravating factors include previous convictions, an offender ignoring earlier warnings or putting others at risk of harm, or involving others through coercion, intimidation or exploitation.
Mitigating features are a lack of previous convictions, attempts to assist the victim, cooperation with the enforcing authority investigation, that the offender was stressed or pressured, or, for reasons beyond their control, they lacked the necessary equipment, training or knowledge which contributed to the negligent conduct.
Lord Justice Holroyde, a member of the Sentencing Council, said: “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.”
Employers should brace themselves for a spate of harsh jail sentences as these guidelines are intended to send a strong message to directors and senior managers who neglect safety to save money!
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