Manslaughter receives new sentencing guidelines

New guidelines for England and Wales, coming into force in courts on November 1 2018.

The Sentencing Council has announced new guidelines for the sentencing of Manslaughter cases in England and Wales. Introduced for the first time in relation to Manslaughter cases, the new guidelines have been developed to ensure sentencing relects the severity of the incident, and have followed a period of public consultation.

The types of manslaughter covered by the guideline are:

  • Unlawful Act manslaughter
  • Gross negligence manslaughter
  • Manslaughter by reason of loss of control
  • Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility

Naturally, parallels are being drawn between these guidelines and the 2016 Sentencing Guidelines relating to Health & Safety and Corporate Manslaughter legislation. Like the latter, there are a number of steps relating to culpability, levels of harm, and other aggravating factors that are likely to help a court determine the severity and resulting sentence.

Overall sentences are not expected to increase across all case type, but it is expected that in large-scale or complex cases of Gross negligence manslaughter, sentences could be tougher where a particular event has implications and a duty of care to victim(s) has been breached.

For cases of a breach involving a high level of culpability and harm, the guidelines recommend a starting point of eighteen years' custody for Manslaughter. Whereas when comparing to a breach of Health and Safety legislation involving an individual, that carries up to a maximum length of two years' imprisonment for any person(s) deemed responsible.

Sentencing Council member Lord Justice Holroyde 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.”

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