New sentencing guidelines for the courts on how to deal with offenders convicted of gross negligence manslaughter will come into force on 1st November. The instructions issued by the Sentencing Council mean that negligent employers and managers in England and Wales could face up to 18 years in prison if found guilty.

The publication of the guidelines marks the first time the Sentencing Council has provided instructions to courts on how to deal with offenders convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. Although the guidelines are unlikely to significantly change most sentences, it is expected that some gross negligence sentences will increase. Examples of when the tougher penalties will apply is where a convicted employer has shown a long-standing and serious disregard for employees, motivated by cost-cutting, and this has led to someone being killed. Ignoring previous warnings will also count against an offender.

The guidelines go on to identify key mitigating factors including: no previous or relevant convictions; remorse; attempts to assist the victim; and self-reporting or co-operation with the investigation. Further mitigation is allowed for reasons identified as beyond the offender’s control such as the offender lacked the necessary expertise, equipment, support or training; or the offender was subject to stress or pressure (including from competing or complex demands); and the negligent conduct was compounded by the actions or omissions of others beyond the defendant’s control.