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Employers Convicted of Gross Negligence Manslaughter May Face Longer Prison Terms

4th July 2017

 
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The Sentencing Council has today announced a consultation on its proposed guidelines for how offenders convicted of manslaughter should be sentenced in England and Wales.

The guidelines cover gross negligence manslaughter which occurs when the offender commits a gross breach of a duty of care owed towards the victim. In the workplace context, employers whose complete disregard for health and safety legislation results in the death of an employee, can be and regularly are prosecuted for this offence.

Currently, there are very limited sentencing guidelines for manslaughter (except corporate manslaughter which is covered by the Council’s health and safety offences guidelines). The proposed guidelines are intended to promote consistency and transparency in terms of how sentencing decisions are reached. In most areas, there are unlikely to be changes to sentence levels, but the Council expects that in some gross negligence cases, sentences will increase.

The maximum sentence for a conviction for gross negligence manslaughter is life imprisonment but in the context of workplace fatalities, the usual prison term imposed is 4 years. This draft guidelines indicate this would increase to 18 years in cases where a death was caused by an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees which was motivated by cost-cutting.

The consultation runs until 10 October 2017.

Further Information and Legal Support

In the meantime, if you would like to know more about the judgment please contact a member of our Corporate Risk & Insurance Team.

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