The Sentencing Council has published a new guideline for how offenders convicted of manslaughter should be sentenced in England and Wales.
The guideline covers four types of manslaughter: unlawful act manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, manslaughter by reason of loss of control and manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
The serious nature of manslaughter, combined with the great variation in cases, and the fact that cases do not come before individual judges very frequently, means the introduction of guidelines will be particularly useful in promoting consistency in sentencing and transparency in terms of how sentencing decisions are reached.
Overall, the guideline is unlikely to change sentence levels but it is expected that in some gross negligence cases sentences will increase. This could be in situations where, for example, an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed. Current sentencing practice in these sorts of cases is lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types.
The guideline ensures comprehensive guidance where previously it was very limited. Until now, there has been a guideline only for corporate manslaughter, which comes under the Council’s health and safety offences guideline, and a guideline by the Council’s predecessor body for manslaughter by reason of provocation, which is now out of date following legislative changes to the partial defences to murder.
The guideline will come into force in courts on 1 November 2018 and can be found on the Council’s website www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk