'Tougher sentences for gross negligence manslaughter' in wake of Grenfell and Hillsborough

What should I do if my student flat has Grenfell-style cladding?

The Sentencing Council has announced a consultation on its proposals for how people convicted of manslaughter should be sentenced, including tougher sentences for so-called 'gross negligence manslaughter'. 

The consultation comes against a backdrop of public pressure for legal action against those deemed responsible for deaths at Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower, last month.

At present there are no formal guidelines for sentencing in manslaughter cases and most sentences are unlikely to change much from current sentencing practice, except - it is anticipated - in cases of gross negligence manslaughter, where sentences will increase. In particular, any guidance is likely to focus on those who have engaged in reckless ‘cost cutting’ or who have a ‘serious disregard’ for the safety of others. Equally, those who are found to have been motivated by financial gain, or who knew that their actions were likely to cause harm, or those who were in a ‘dominant role’ within their organisation.

Last year, an inquest found that the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough had been ‘unlawfully killed’ and last week, it was announced that the officer in charge of policing on the day of the disaster would be charged with gross negligence manslaughter. The consultation could well have an impact on this case.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said that manslaughter charges were being considered over the deaths of at least 80 people.

A statement from the Sentencing Council, said: "In considering the factors that make an offence of gross negligence manslaughter more or less serious the Council came to the conclusion that it would be appropriate for sentences to increase in some situations.

"Typically these are cases where an employer has had a long standing, utter disregard for the safety of employees and is motivated by cost cutting."

Rachel Adamson, Head of Regulatory Law at the national law firm, Stephensons, said: "The consultation is well timed and may well provide an opportunity for views to be expressed as to how these offences should be punished.

"There is an overwhelming feeling that individuals should be held accountable and the proposals for sentencing guidelines may address this."