A consultation has started by the Sentencing Council on its proposals for how offenders convicted of manslaughter should be sentenced in England and Wales.
It is the first time that comprehensive guidelines have been drawn up for these very serious and difficult cases, which could include an unintended death resulting from an assault or a workplace fatality caused by an employer’s negligence.
If you are an employer found guilty of the most serious form of gross negligence resulting in an employee’s death you could face up to 18 years in prison.
These proposals covers four types of manslaughter:
Unlawful Act manslaughter – this is the most commonly prosecuted form of manslaughter and includes deaths that result from assaults where there was no intention to kill or cause very serious harm. It can also include unintended deaths that result from other crimes, such as arson or robbery.
Gross negligence manslaughter – this occurs when the offender is in breach of a duty of care towards the victim which causes the death of the victim and amounts to a criminal act or omission. The circumstances vary greatly. In a domestic setting it could include parents or carers who fail to protect the victim from an obvious danger. In a work setting, it could cover employers who completely disregard the safety of employees. It could also arise in a medical setting when a practitioner falls far below the required standard in the treatment of a patient.
Manslaughter by reason of loss of control – This arises if the actions of an offender, who would otherwise be guilty of murder, resulted from a loss of self control, for example arising from a fear of serious violence.
Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility – Someone guilty of this offence would have been suffering from a recognised mental condition which affected their responsibility at the time of the offence, without which they would have been convicted of murder.
An example could be
“A death was caused by an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees which was motivated by cost-cutting. Current sentencing practice in these sorts of cases is lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types.”
At CSC we will keep our eye on this and provide an update when the consultation has concluded in October 2017 and guidelines are published.
If you need any advice on this topic, please feel free to contact us.