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How Manslaughter Sentencing Has Changed

by | Jul 31, 2018 | Criminal Law, General News, Sentencing

One punch can killManslaughter – New Sentencing Guideline

The Sentencing Council, who’s responsibility it is to set sentencing guidelines in England and Wales, has just recently issued a new guideline in relation to manslaughter offences.

Which offences are covered?

The guideline covers:

    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 covered by the Council’s health and safety sentencing guidelines.

When does the guideline take effect?

The guideline applies to all offenders sentenced on or after 1 November 2018; should you be charged before the guideline comes in to force, you could still fall to be sentenced in accordance with it if you plead guilty or are convicted.

What are the different types of manslaughter?

Unlawful Act manslaughter – the most commonly prosecuted form of manslaughter includes death from assault where there was no intention to kill or cause very serious harm. It varies greatly- For example, it could involve a situation where two friends briefly argue and one friend pushes over the other causing an accidental fatality. It cold involve somebody wishing to get into a fight with someone but not intending to kill them. Unintended deaths as the result of a robbery or arson may also be included. 105 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Gross negligence manslaughter – this refers to manslaughter when the offender is in breach of a duty of care towards the victim which results in the death of the victim and amounts to a criminal act or omission. The circumstances vary greatly. In a domestic setting it could include parents or carers failing to protect children from obvious danger. In a work setting, employers who completely disregard the safety of their employees could be convicted for this. 10 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Manslaughter by reason of loss of control – This arises in cases where the actions of an offender has killed somebody, and would have been sentenced to murder, but it has been decided that they had lost self control. For example, if they felt that they were in serious danger. 12 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility – This could apply to someone who was suffering from a mental health condition at the time of the offence which has effected their behaviour, without this they would have been convicted of murder. 26 offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Why has this guideline been issued?

This guideline ensures more comprehensive guidance, it had been very limited previously. Until now, there has been a guideline only for corporate manslaughter, which comes under the Council’s health and safety offences guideline, and a guideline by the Council’s predecessor body for manslaughter by reason of provocation. This is now out of date legislation following changes to the partial defences to murder.

Will sentence length increase?

The Sentencing Council predicts that the impact will be minimal. They suspect there will be around ten extra prison places per year as a result of the guideline but warns that ‘it is difficult to ascertain how sentence levels may change under the new guideline.’

Experience tells us that there is a certain degree of sentence length creep’ following the implementation of new guidelines. Our advocates are trained in the use of all sentencing guidelines and equipped to ensure that judges apply them correctly.

How can we assist?

If you need advice concerning any criminal law matter, contact Morton’s Solicitors on 0161 477 1121 or



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