New Sentencing Guidelines for Manslaughter Published

The Sentencing Council has this week published definitive guidelines for those convicted of manslaughter offences in England and Wales.  The intention is to provide greater clarity and consistency in sentences, and will apply to individuals convicted of:

  • Unlawful act manslaughter (up to 24 years’ custody);
  • Gross negligence manslaughter (up to 18 years’ custody);
  • Manslaughter by reason of loss of control (up to 20 years’ custody); or
  • Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility (up to 40 years’ custody).

The guidelines provide a step-by-step approach for judges to adopt, taking a wide range of different factors into account for each of the four offences, such as the degree of responsibility/culpability, reductions for an early guilty plea and any time spent on bail.

The guidelines apply only to individuals convicted of an offence.  Separate guidelines continue to apply to those convicted of corporate manslaughter.

The new guidelines will apply to any offender convicted after 1 November 2018, irrespective of when the offence occurred.  It is anticipated that they will lead to an increase in sentences for some gross negligence manslaughter offences – a category of offence which has attracted much media interest in recent times, following high-profile cases such as the conviction of Dr Bawa-Garba, and in anticipation of possible prosecutions arising from the Grenfell fire.