New Sentencing Council Guidelines for a variety of manslaughter offences were announced yesterday which are likely to increase sentences for Gross Negligence Manslaughter in health and safety cases. It was widely perceived that historic sentences which were commonly 1-2 years (and sometimes suspended) were too lenient.

Gross negligence manslaughter occurs when the offender is so seriously in breach of a duty of care towards the victim that it amounts to a criminal act or omission.

The starting point for sentencing in most cases now will be four years but rising to 8 or even 12 years in more serious cases (up to a maximum of 18 years)

The majority of health and safety cases involve corporate defendants (who of course cannot be imprisoned) rather than individuals but a small number of cases a year see individuals sentenced for manslaughter, often Directors of smaller businesses where the prosecution establish complete disregard the safety of their workers.

In addition, the Guidelines apply to all cases sentenced after 1/1/18 (irrespective of when the offence was committed) so would be used in relation to any individuals convicted in relation to Hillsborough and Grenfell will be impacted.