Employers Face Tougher Sentences for Gross Negligence Manslaughter

31 Aug

Negligent employers and managers in England and Wales who blatantly disregard employee safety could be sentenced to up to 18 years in prison under new court guidelines.

The guidelines, which will come into force on November 1st, mark the first time the Sentencing Council has provided instructions to courts on how to deal with offenders convicted of gross negligence manslaughter.

They identify factors that would make the offence particularly serious. An individual’s culpability would be put at the highest level for a longstanding and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by financial gain (or avoidance of cost), warranting a prison sentence between 10 and 18 years.

Evidence that the negligent conduct persisted for a long period of time will result in a jail sentence between 6 and 12 years under the new guidelines. If the offender’s culpability is deemed to be a lapse in otherwise satisfactory standards of care, the jail term will be in the range of 1 to 4 years.

Aggravating factors include previous convictions, an offender ignoring earlier warnings or putting others at risk of harm, or involving others through coercion, intimidation or exploitation.

Mitigating features are a lack of previous convictions, attempts to assist the victim, co-operation with the enforcing authority’s investigation, that the offender was stressed or pressured, or, for reasons beyond their control, they lacked the necessary equipment, training or knowledge which contributed to the negligent conduct.

The guidelines also apply to unlawful act manslaughter, manslaughter due to loss of control and manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.

Lord Justice Holroyde, a member of the Sentencing Council, said: “Manslaughter offences vary hugely – some cases are not far from being an accident, while others may be just short of murder. While no sentence can make up for the loss of life, this guideline will help ensure sentencing that properly reflects the culpability of the offender and the unique facts of each case.”

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For further information, contact Lauren Dickinson via email or call 02920 533794