Gross corporate manslaughter: New Sentencing Guidance to be introduced in November 2018

Published: 15 Aug 2018

The Sentencing Council has published definitive guidance covering new sentences for individuals who commit gross negligence manslaughter. With this guideline coming into force in courts on 1 November 2018, jail time of up to 18 years is being proposed for the worst offenders.

Gross negligence manslaughter is committed by an individual whose gross breach of a duty of care causes or significantly contributes to a death.

Since the inception of the Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety, Food hygiene and corporate manslaughter in 2016, record fines have been issued for companies and a reduced threshold for individuals to be sent to jail under the two-year maximum term for health and safety offences.

We take a closer look at how the gross negligence manslaughter sentencing will be calculated and how this may affect your business:

The level of capability will be the key criterion which will determine the length of jailtime! As with the 2016 guidelines, there are 4 levels of culpability which range from low to very high. The starting points are 12 years, eight years, four years and two years for culpabilities of ‘very high’, ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘lower’, respectively.

In a typical case arising in the workplace, the most likely factors that would put you into the ‘high’ culpability category are: cost saving as a motivation for the breach; and “blatant disregard for a very high risk of death”(If you failed to address previous warnings which has resulted in a fatality).

With the introduction of the Gross negligence manslaughter sentencing guidance, increased prison sentences are likely to rise significantly. The message to senior level management and directors is loud and clear to ensure that health and safety culture is harnessed to ensure that compliance is met.

There are 3 other types of manslaughter with are also covered by the guideline:

Unlawful act manslaughter – this is the most commonly prosecuted form of manslaughter and includes deaths that results from assaults where there was no intention to kill or cause very serious harm.  It can also include unintended deaths that results from other crimes, such as arson or robbery.

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.

Sentences for these three types of manslaughter are not expected to increase.

At CSC we will monitor this news and the impact it will have on our industry.

If you need any advice on this topic, please feel free to contact us.