Our Environmental Health & Safety Advisor, Laura Harthill, discusses the new changes to gross negligence manslaughter sentencing. 

The Sentencing Council has proposed longer jail terms for those convicted of Gross Negligence Manslaughter.

Currently under consultation, the proposed new guidelines for sentencing cover four types of manslaughter. The first, gross negligence manslaughter, occurs when the offender breaches their duty of care to a victim, which results in death – amounting to a criminal act or omission.  This includes disregarding employee safety in order to save money. 

Employers should be warned that contempt for employee safety, motivated by cost-cutting, could result in hefty prison sentences. The court will have to decide on the employer’s level of culpability and the harm they’ve caused. With manslaughter, the harm is always death – so the deciding factor will be the offender’s culpability.

At the moment, sentences start at one year. The new proposal suggests that – even if the offender has an otherwise blemish-free history regarding their duty of care – the starting sentence will increase to two years, with a range of two - four years.

Under the proposal, if the offender has a history of disregard for employee safety (driven by financial savings or profit), they could receive a sentence of 10-18 years. In 2014, 16 offenders were sentenced for gross negligence manslaughter, receiving sentences ranging from nine months to 12 years. 

If these guidelines come into effect, they’ll provide greater transparency and consistency in sentencing. 

Hopefully, managers and directors will take heed of the increases – and have greater regard for the safety of their employees.

For more information, please contact Laura Harthill