Gross Negligence Manslaughter Jail Terms to Increase

Employers or managers convicted of gross negligence manslaughter after a workplace fatality are likely to face longer prison sentences under a new guideline published by the Sentencing Council on 31 July.

Applying to sentences delivered in England or Wales on or after 1 November, the new guideline is an attempt to bring consistent sentencing to sentences for all forms of manslaughter, but the Sentencing Council says it is likely to have the effect of increasing sentences in gross negligence cases.

When the Sentencing Council analysed sentences for the 16 offenders convicted in 2014, it found custodial terms ranging from nine months to 12 years, with four suspended sentences.

Giving the example of an employer where “long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed”, it states that “current sentencing practice in these sorts of cases is [currently] lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types”.

The new guideline sets out four levels of culpability for those convicted, with the sentence range for “very high culpability” offences starting at 12 years’ in prison, with a range of 10 to 18 years.

The “high culpability” category, with a starting point of 8 years’ custody and a range of 6 to 12 years, would occur if there was a “blatant disregard for a very high risk of death” or the negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain, or the avoidance of cost.

The “medium culpability” category, with a starting point of 6 years’ custody and a range of 3 to 9 years, would occur if there was a “where death was caused in the course of an unlawful act which involved an intention by the offender to cause harm.

The “lower culpability” category, with a starting point of 2 years’ custody and a range of 1 to 4 years, would occur if there was a “where there was no intention by the offender to cause any harm and no obvious risk of anything more than minor harm.”

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