Manslaughter sentencing guidelines published
The first definitive guidelines for manslaughter offences will come into force on 1 November 2018. The guidelines will apply to all offenders over the age of 18 who fall to be sentenced on or after that date. Corporate manslaughter offences are not covered in this guideline and continue to be dealt with under guidelines issued in 2015.
Manslaughter offences fall into four categories:-
- Unlawful act manslaughter. The most prosecuted form of manslaughter, with 105 convictions for this offence in 2015. These includes deaths where there was no intention to kill or cause serious harm, usually in assault cases, arson or robbery. Under the new guideline the highest starting point is one of 18 years’ custody.
- Gross negligence manslaughter. Where an offender, who has a duty of care towards the deceased, breaches that duty which causes (or contributes to) the death of the victim and the breach should be categorised as grossly (i.e. criminally) negligent, then the offender is guilty of this form of manslaughter. A recent example of this type of manslaughter before the Courts is the Shoreham Airshow pilot who is due to stand trial in January 2019. If convicted, he will fall to be one of the first to be sentenced under these guidelines. In 2016, 10 offenders were sentenced for this offence. Under the new guideline for the most serious of cases a starting point of 12 years custody is given.
- Manslaughter by reason of loss of control. This category replaced the old law of provocation. Where an offender would otherwise be guilty of murder but their actions were deemed to be a loss of self-control this defence to murder is utilised. The starting point for the most serious of offences under this category is one of 14 years’ custody.
- Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. Where an offender, suffering from a recognised mental condition which affected their responsibility at the time of the killing. This category of manslaughter brings the highest starting point (for the most serious offences) of 24 years’ custody.
Following the trend for more severe punishments in health and safety failings where large fines have been ordered, under these new guidelines custodial sentences are likely to increase – how significantly it is yet unclear.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.