From October 2017 new guidelines come in to force when sentencing for the Corporate Manslaughter Act.
How are the proposed new sentences calculated?
There are 4 levels of culpability, from ‘low’ to ‘very high’, each of which leads to a different starting point jail term. The starting points are 12 years, 8 years, 4 years and 2 years for culpabilities of ‘very high’, ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’, respectively. Other factors can then be taken into account to move you down a little or up a lot within a specified range around each starting point. For example, the ‘very high’ range is 10 to 18 years and you move up the range if more than one person was put at risk or if you wrongly seek to blame others (which might well be necessary as part of defending at trial).
A number of factors are listed to enable the judge to determine the right culpability category. In a typical case arising in the workplace, these factors point strongly against falling within the ‘low’ category and make it much more likely the ‘high’ or ‘very high’ categories will be chosen. In particular, if the offender was aware that a breach could cause death, then this points towards ‘high’. Similarly, if the breach persisted for weeks or months.
The impact of this for workplace cases is enormous. These typically involve a breach lasting at least some weeks and it would be unusual for the offender not to be aware that getting safety wrong could cause a death. In these cases, the presumption looks set to be that culpability will at least be ‘high’. Another feature of ‘high’ is where the conduct was motivated by financial gain or avoidance of cost.
More worrying still, you can be taken into the ‘very high’ category if more than one feature of ‘high’ is evidenced. So, if you are aware of the risk of death (one feature of ‘high’) and the breach lasted weeks (another feature of ‘high’), then this can take you into the ‘very high’ category (starting point 12 years in jail and range 10 to 18 years). And if there is also evidence of cost cutting at the expense of safety (another feature of ‘high’), ‘very high’ seems almost inevitable.
Extracted from an article by Dr Simon Joyston-Bechal of Turnstone Law on