New guidance on gross negligence manslaughter sentencing is proposing jail terms of up to 18 years, with health and safety cases being singled out for increases.
The message for the boardroom is to sit up and take note, because these guidelines apply to current acts and omissions – they will be retrospective in that someone who commits an offence in 2017 can expect the guidelines to be in force by the time he or she comes up for sentencing after a delay of 18 months or more.
Gross negligence manslaughter occurs when the offender is in breach of a duty of care towards the victim which causes the death of the victim and amounts to a criminal act or omission. Sentencing Council member Mr Justice Holroyde said, “Manslaughter always involves the loss of a human life and no sentence can make up for that loss. In developing these guidelines, we have been keenly aware of the impact caused by these offences and so the guidelines aim to ensure sentencing that properly reflects both the culpability of the offender and the seriousness of the harm which has been caused.”
With new statistics from the HSE for 2016/17 showing that 137 workers were killed in 2016/17, a long term downward trend seen over the past 30 years or so has plateaued, with the latest figures suggesting signs of the rate of fatal injury to workers levelling off.
The most fruitful approach is to continue efforts to improve workplace behaviour and, in particular, to harness the guidelines as a tool to train directors and senior executives as to the importance of setting the right tone at the top.”
The consultation runs until October 2017 and can be found at http://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/consultations/manslaughter-consultation