On 1 November 2018 the Sentencing Council issued the first definitive guidelines for manslaughter offences. These guidelines will now be used by all sentencing tribunals to ensure consistency of approach in sentencing Manslaughter offences in Crown Courts throughout the Country.
The guidelines apply to all offenders over the age of 18 who are to be sentenced on or after 1st November 2018. The guidelines set out the custodial starting points based on post trial. The range of the sentence increases or decreases depending on the number of statutory aggravating or mitigating factors applicable to the circumstances of each individual case.
Manslaughter for sentencing purposes has been divided into four categories:
Unlawful Act Manslaughter
This is the most prosecuted form of manslaughter in the UK. An examples of unlawful act manslaughter is; death resulting where there was no intention to kill or cause serious harm.
Result of the new guidelines: the highest starting point is one of 18 years custody.
Gross negligence manslaughter
This form of manslaughter occurs in limited circumstances. Only 10 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016. However, there has been a rise in the number of cases in the last year.
This type of manslaughter occurs when the offender is in a breach of a duty of care towards the victim, which causes the death of the victim and amounts to a criminal act or omission. Examples of gross negligence manslaughter include; parents or carers who fail to protect the victim from danger, employers who ignore the safety of their employees or restaurant owners failing to take steps to inform customers of foods they serve that may contain eight of the most common type of food allergies.
Results of the new guidelines: the highest staring point is one of 12 years custody with a range of 10-18 years.
Manslaughter by reason of loss of control
This form of manslaughter replaced the old law surrounding the offence of provocation. This type of manslaughter occurs when an offender would otherwise be guilty of murder but their actions were deemed to be due to a loss of self-control.
Result of the new guidelines: the highest start point is one of 14 years custody.
Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility
This form of manslaughter occurs where an offender has suffered from a recognised mental condition which affected their responsibility at the time they committed the killing, without which they would have been convicted of murder.
Result of the new guidelines: the highest starting point is one of 24 years custody.
The effect of the new guidelines will mostly apply to sentences passed for offenders found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. Though gross negligence manslaughter is likely to remain an offence reserved for the most serious cases, the new guidelines are expected to increase sentences for this offence.
Sunpritha JutllaSUNPRITHA’S PROFILE