directors & officers insurance

New Sentencing Guidelines for Gross Negligence Manslaughter

From 1 November 2018, English and Welsh courts will have specific sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of unlawful act manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, manslaughter by reason of loss of control or manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Duncan Sutcliffe, director, Sutcliffe & Co, commented: “As a business owner or director, you are culpable if you do not look after your employees’ health & safety and, as a result, they have a fatal accident. In this instance, the charges levied would come under ‘gross negligence manslaughter’.”

The Sentencing Council advised: “Overall, the guideline is unlikely to change sentence levels but it is expected that in some gross negligence cases sentences will increase. This could be in situations where, for example, an employer’s long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed. Current sentencing practice in these sorts of cases is lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types.”

The guidelines firstly help the court determine the level of culpability for the offender, from ‘low’ to ‘very high’, and these then relate to specific custody ranges. For example, a ‘low’ culpability equates to 1-4 years’ custody whereas a ‘very high’ brings 11-24 years’ custodial sentence. The exact sentence will remain a decision by the court.

Duncan added: “Having set sentencing guidelines will help English and Welsh courts provide a more consistent approach to manslaughter cases. Accidents do happen, but by ensuring risk management and health & safety duties are carried out as thoroughly as possible in your business, you are reducing the risk to your employees, but also for yourself. “

The guidelines will be used for all sentences imposed from 1 November 2018, regardless of the date of the offence. Click here for Sentencing_Council_Manslaughter_Definitive-Guideline_WEB

D&O insurance is designed to indemnify directors and officers from claims against them personally. If you need help with your business’ risk management, then speak to a member of our corporate team who will be able to help.