Under new guidelines jail terms for gross negligence manslaughter will increase

The Sentencing Council has published new Manslaughter Definitive Guidelines. Under the new guidelines employers or managers convicted of gross negligence manslaughter after a workplace fatality are likely to face longer prison sentences.
Manslaughter by gross negligence occurs when the offender is in breach of a duty of care towards the victim, the breach causes the death of the victim and, having regard to the risk involved, the offender’s conduct was so bad as to amount to a criminal act or omission.
In February 2016, the guidelines for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter were introduced. The Manslaughter Definitive Guidelines will follow a similar step-by-step approach and addresses culpability, the sentencing range, and aggregating and mitigating factors.
The new guidelines will apply to sentences delivered in England and Wales on or after 1st November 2018.
The new guidelines set out four levels of culpability for those convicted: very high culpability; high culpability; medium culpability; and lower culpability.  
Several factors can indicate ‘high culpability’ including if there was a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death, if the negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain or avoidance of cost, or if they were the leader, where others contributed to the offence. ‘Very high culpability’ will include a combination of the above factors.
Factors for ‘lower culpability’ will include if the negligent conduct was a lapse on the offender’s otherwise satisfactory standard of care, or if the offender’s responsibility was substantially reduced by mental disorder, learning disability or lack of maturity.
Sentencing range
The benchmark prison sentences are set out in the table below.

Manslaughter guidelines table
Aggravating and mitigating factors
Aggravating factors include:

  • if the offender ignored warnings about the risk;
  • previous convictions; or
  • actions after the event (including but not limited to attempts to cover up/ conceal evidence).


Mitigating factors include:

  • attempts to assist the victim;
  • remorse; or
  • for reasons beyond the offender’s control, the offender lacked the necessary expertise, equipment, support or training which contributed to the negligent conduct.


Found this information useful? Sign up for a free trial of the Legislation Update Service here to access regular, more detailed articles.