New Sentencing Guideline Announced for Manslaughter Offences

August 1, 2018

The Sentencing Council are responsible for setting sentencing guidelines in England and Wales, and have  just announced  new guidelines  for  manslaughter offences, which will cover the following..

  • Unlawful act manslaughter – a common law offence
  • Gross negligence manslaughter – a common law offence
  • Manslaughter by reason of loss of control – a statutory partial defence to murder (sections 54 and 55 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009)
  • Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility – a statutory partial defence to murder (section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957)

Corporate manslaughter is not covered under this guideline, as it is already covered by the Council’s health and safety guidelines.

When will it take effect?

If you are sentenced on or after 1st November 2018, this guideline will apply to you.  If you are charged before the guideline comes in to force, you may still be sentenced in accordance with it if you plead guilty or are convicted.

The different types of manslaughter…

Unlawful Act manslaughter – this is the most commonly prosecuted form of manslaughter and the circumstances which give rise to this offence can vary hugely.  On the one hand, it includes deaths that result from assaults where there was no intention to kill or cause very serious harm.  Tragic examples of this have included cases where two friends argued, and one pushed the other causing a fall and a fatal head injury.   It can also cover situations where someone is actively looking for a fight and who attacks someone forcefully but not with any intention to kill. It can also include unintended deaths caused by other crimes, such as arson or robbery. 105 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Gross negligence manslaughter – occurs when the offender breaches a duty of care towards the victim which causes their death and that breach amounts to a criminal act or omission.  Again circumstances vary greatly. In a domestic setting, this could include parents, guardians or carers who fail to protect a child from an obvious danger. In a workplace, this could cover employers who do not pay any attention to the safety of their employees. 10 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Manslaughter by reason of loss of control – This occurs if the actions of an offender, who would otherwise be guilty of murder, resulted from a loss of self- control, for example fearing serious violence. 12 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility – is where someone is suffering from a recognised mental condition that affected their behaviour and responsibility at the time of the offence, without which they would have been convicted of murder. 26 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Why has the new guideline been introduced?

The new guideline ensures more detailed and thorough guidance where it was previously very limited. Until now there had only really been a guideline for corporate manslaughter.

Will it affect the length of my sentence?

The Sentencing Council predicts only a minimal impact, but cautions that ‘it is difficult to ascertain how sentence levels may change under the new guideline.’

Experience tells us that sentences do often increase following the implementation of new guidelines. Our solicitors are professionals, trained in the use of all sentencing guidelines and are equipped to ensure that judges apply them correctly.

How Tuckers Solicitors can help you…

To discuss anything to do with new guidelines, please contact us on 020 7388 8333 or email and we will gladly assist.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.