Gross negligence manslaughter

Common law
Effective from: 01 November 2018

Triable only on indictment
Maximum: Life imprisonment
Offence range: 1 – 18 years’ custody

This is a serious specified offence for the purposes of sections 224 and 225(2) (life sentences for serious offences) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

This is an offence listed in Part 1 of Schedule 15B for the purposes of section 224A (life sentence for a second listed offence) and section 226A (extended sentence for certain violent or sexual offences) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The type of manslaughter (and thereby the appropriate guideline) should have been identified prior to sentence. If there is any dispute or uncertainty about the type of manslaughter that applies the judge should give clear reasons for the basis of sentence.

User guide for this offence


Guideline users should be aware that the Equal Treatment Bench Book covers important aspects of fair treatment and disparity of outcomes for different groups in the criminal justice system. It provides guidance which sentencers are encouraged to take into account wherever applicable, to ensure that there is fairness for all involved in court proceedings.

Applicability

The Sentencing Council issues this definitive guideline in accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

It applies to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 November 2018, regardless of the date of the offence.

Section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 provides that when sentencing offences committed after 6 April 2010:

“Every court –

(a) must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case, and

(b) must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function,

unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”

This guideline applies only to individual offenders aged 18 and older. When sentencing those under 18 refer to the general principles in the Sentencing Council definitive guideline: Sentencing Children and Young People, Overarching Principles.

When sentencing organisations for the offence of corporate manslaughter refer to the Sentencing Council Corporate Manslaughter definitive guideline.

Structure, ranges and starting points

For the purposes of section 125(3)–(4) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the guideline specifies offence ranges – the range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence. Within each offence, the Council has specified a number of categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness. The offence range is split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness. The Council has also identified a starting point within each category.

Starting points define the position within a category range from which to start calculating the provisional sentence. The court should consider further features of the offence or the offender that warrant adjustment of the sentence within the range, including the aggravating and mitigating factors set out at step two. Starting points and ranges apply to all offenders, whether they have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trial.

Credit for a guilty plea is taken into consideration only at step four (step seven for manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility) in the decision making process, after the appropriate sentence has been identified.

Step 1 – Determining the offence category

Culpability  

The characteristics set out below are indications of the level of culpability that may attach to the offender’s conduct; the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s overall culpability in the context of the circumstances of the offence.

The court should avoid an overly mechanistic application of these factors particularly in cases to which they do not readily apply.

 A – Very high culpability

Very high culpability may be indicated by:

  • the extreme character of one or more culpability B factors and /or
  • a combination of culpability B factors

B – Factors indicating high culpability

  • The offender continued or repeated the negligent conduct in the face of the obvious suffering caused to the deceased by that conduct
  • The negligent conduct was in the context of other serious criminality
  • The offence was particularly serious because the offender showed a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death resulting from the negligent conduct
  • The negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain (or avoidance of cost)
  • The offender was in a leading role if acting with others in the offending
  • Concealment, destruction, defilement or dismemberment of the body (where not separately charged)

C – Factors indicating medium culpability

Cases falling between high and lower because

  • factors are present in high and lower which balance each other out and/or
  • the offender’s culpability falls between the factors as described in high and lower

D – Factors indicating lower culpability

  • The negligent conduct was a lapse in the offender’s otherwise satisfactory standard of care
  • The offender was in a lesser or subordinate role if acting with others in the offending
  • The offender’s responsibility was substantially reduced by mental disorder, learning disability or lack of maturity

Harm

For all cases of manslaughter the harm caused will inevitably be of the utmost seriousness. The loss of life is taken into account in the sentencing levels at step two.

Step 2 – Starting point and category range

Having determined the category at step one, the court should use the corresponding starting point to reach a sentence within the category range below. The starting point applies to all offenders irrespective of plea or previous convictions.

Where a case does not fall squarely within a category, adjustment from the starting point may be required before adjustment for aggravating or mitigating features.

Culpability
A B C D
Starting point
12 years’ custody
Starting point
8 years’ custody
Starting point
4 years’ custody
Starting point
2 years’ custody
Category range
10 – 18 years’ custody
Category range
6 – 12 years’ custody
Category range
3 – 7 years’ custody
Category range
1 – 4 years’ custody
Custodial sentences

Sentencing flowcharts are available at Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences definitive guideline.


The approach to the imposition of a custodial sentence should be as follows:

1) Has the custody threshold been passed?

  • A custodial sentence must not be imposed unless the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.
  • There is no general definition of where the custody threshold lies. The circumstances of the individual offence and the factors assessed by offence-specific guidelines will determine whether an offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified. Where no offence specific guideline is available to determine seriousness, the harm caused by the offence, the culpability of the offender and any previous convictions will be relevant to the assessment.
  • The clear intention of the threshold test is to reserve prison as a punishment for the most serious offences.

2) Is it unavoidable that a sentence of imprisonment be imposed?

  • Passing the custody threshold does not mean that a custodial sentence should be deemed inevitable. Custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime.
  • For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.

3) What is the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence?

  • In considering this the court must NOT consider any licence or post sentence supervision requirements which may subsequently be imposed upon the offender’s release.

4) Can the sentence be suspended?

  • A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. Sentencers should be clear that they would impose an immediate custodial sentence if the power to suspend were not available. If not, a non-custodial sentence should be imposed.

The following factors should be weighed in considering whether it is possible to suspend the sentence:

Factors indicating that it would not be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence

Factors indicating that it may be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence

Offender presents a risk/danger to the public

Realistic prospect of rehabilitation

Appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody

Strong personal mitigation

History of poor compliance with court orders

Immediate custody will result in significant harmful impact upon others

The imposition of a custodial sentence is both punishment and a deterrent. To ensure that the overall terms of the suspended sentence are commensurate with offence seriousness, care must be taken to ensure requirements imposed are not excessive. A court wishing to impose onerous or intensive requirements should reconsider whether a community sentence might be more appropriate.

Pre-sentence report

Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that:

  • the custody threshold has been passed; and, if so
  • the length of imprisonment which represents the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence;

the court should obtain a pre-sentence report, whether verbal or written, unless the court considers a report to be unnecessary. Ideally a pre-sentence report should be completed on the same day to avoid adjourning the case.

Magistrates: Consult your legal adviser before deciding to sentence to custody without a pre-sentence report.

Suspended Sentences: General Guidance

i) The guidance regarding pre-sentence reports applies if suspending custody.

ii) If the court imposes a term of imprisonment of between 14 days and 2 years (subject to magistrates’ courts sentencing powers), it may suspend the sentence for between 6 months and 2 years (the ‘operational period’). The time for which a sentence is suspended should reflect the length of the sentence; up to 12 months might normally be appropriate for a suspended sentence of up to 6 months.

iii) Where the court imposes two or more sentences to be served consecutively, the court may suspend the sentence where the aggregate of the terms is between 14 days and 2 years (subject to magistrates’ courts sentencing powers).

iv) When the court suspends a sentence, it may impose one or more requirements for the offender to undertake in the community. The requirements are identical to those available for community orders, see the guideline on Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences.

v) A custodial sentence that is suspended should be for the same term that would have applied if the sentence was to be served immediately.

Where the offender’s acts or omissions would also constitute another offence, the sentencer should have regard to any guideline relevant to the other offence to ensure that the sentence for manslaughter does not fall below what would be imposed under that guideline.

Note: The table is for a single offence of manslaughter resulting in a single fatality. Where another offence or offences arise out of the same incident or facts, concurrent sentences reflecting the overall criminality of offending will ordinarily be appropriate: please refer to the Offences Taken into Consideration and Totality guideline and step six of this guideline.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of additional elements providing the context of the offence and factors relating to the offender. Identify whether a combination of these or other relevant factors should result in any upward or downward adjustment from the sentence arrived at so far.

Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors already taken into account in assessing culpability

Factors increasing seriousness

Statutory aggravating factors:

  • Previous convictions,

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    Guidance on the use of previous convictions

    The following guidance should be considered when seeking to determine the degree to which previous convictions should aggravate sentence:

    Section 143 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that:

    In considering the seriousness of an offence (“the current offence”) committed by an offender who has one or more previous convictions, the court must treat each previous conviction as an aggravating factor if (in the case of that conviction) the court considers that it can reasonably be so treated having regard, in particular, to—

    (a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence, and

    (b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction.

    1. Previous convictions are considered at step two in the Council’s offence-specific guidelines.
    2. The primary significance of previous convictions (including convictions in other jurisdictions) is the extent to which they indicate trends in offending behaviour and possibly the offender’s response to earlier sentences.
    3. Previous convictions are normally relevant to the current offence when they are of a similar type.
    4. Previous convictions of a type different from the current offence may be relevant where they are an indication of persistent offending or escalation and/or a failure to comply with previous court orders.
    5. Numerous and frequent previous convictions might indicate an underlying problem (for example, an addiction) that could be addressed more effectively in the community and will not necessarily indicate that a custodial sentence is necessary.
    6. If the offender received a non-custodial disposal for the previous offence, a court should not necessarily move to a custodial sentence for the fresh offence.
    7. In cases involving significant persistent offending, the community and custody thresholds may be crossed even though the current offence normally warrants a lesser sentence. If a custodial sentence is imposed it should be proportionate and kept to the necessary minimum.
    8. The aggravating effect of relevant previous convictions reduces with the passage of time; older convictions are less relevant to the offender’s culpability for the current offence and less likely to be predictive of future offending.
    9. Where the previous offence is particularly old it will normally have little relevance for the current sentencing exercise.
    10. The court should consider the time gap since the previous conviction and the reason for it. Where there has been a significant gap between previous and current convictions or a reduction in the frequency of offending this may indicate that the offender has made attempts to desist from offending in which case the aggravating effect of the previous offending will diminish.
    11. Where the current offence is significantly less serious than the previous conviction (suggesting a decline in the gravity of offending), the previous conviction may carry less weight.
    12. When considering the totality of previous offending a court should take a rounded view of the previous crimes and not simply aggregate the individual offences.
    13. Where information is available on the context of previous offending this may assist the court in assessing the relevance of that prior offending to the current offence
    having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction (See step five for a consideration of dangerousness)
  • Offence committed whilst on bail

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    S143 (3) Criminal Justice Act 2003 states:

    In considering the seriousness of any offence committed while the offender was on bail, the court must treat the fact that it was committed in those circumstances as an aggravating factor.

  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating hostility based on any of the following characteristics or presumed characteristics of the victim: religion, race, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    See below for the statutory provisions. 

    • Note the requirement for the court to state that the offence has been aggravated by the relevant hostility.
    • Where the element of hostility is core to the offending, the aggravation will be higher than where it plays a lesser role.

    Increase in sentences for racial or religious aggravation

    s145(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states:

    If the offence was racially or religiously aggravated, the court—

    (a) must treat that fact as an aggravating factor, and

    (b) must state in open court that the offence was so aggravated.

    An offence is racially or religiously aggravated for these purposes if—

    • at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates towards the victim of the offence, hostility based on the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial or religious group; or
    • the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial or religious group based on their membership of that group.

    “membership”, in relation to a racial or religious group, includes association with members of that group;

    “presumed” means presumed by the offender.

    It is immaterial whether or not the offender's hostility is also based, to any extent, on any other factor not mentioned above.

    “racial group” means a group of persons defined by reference to race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.

    “religious group” means a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.

    Increase in sentences for aggravation related to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity

    s146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states:

    (1) This section applies where the court is considering the seriousness of an offence committed in any of the circumstances mentioned in subsection (2).

    (2) Those circumstances are—

    (a) that, at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrated towards the victim of the offence hostility based on—

    (i) the sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation) of the victim,

    (ii) a disability (or presumed disability) of the victim, or

    (iii) the victim being (or being presumed to be) transgender, or

    (b) that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly)—

    (i) by hostility towards persons who are of a particular sexual orientation,

    (ii) by hostility towards persons who have a disability or a particular disability or

    (iii) by hostility towards persons who are transgender.

    (3) The court—

    (a) must treat the fact that the offence was committed in any of those circumstances as an aggravating factor, and

    (b) must state in open court that the offence was committed in such circumstances.

    (4) It is immaterial for the purposes of paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (2) whether or not the offender's hostility is also based, to any extent, on any other factor not mentioned in that paragraph.

    (5) In this section “disability” means any physical or mental impairment.

    (6) In this section references to being transgender include references to being transsexual, or undergoing, proposing to undergo or having undergone a process or part of a process of gender reassignment.

Other aggravating factors:

  • History of violence or abuse towards victim by offender
  • Involvement of others through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Significant mental or physical suffering caused to the deceased
  • Offender ignored previous warnings

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    Where an offender has had the benefit of warnings or advice about their conduct but has failed to heed it, this would make the offender more blameworthy.

    This may particularly be the case when:

    • such warning(s) or advice were of an official nature or from a professional source and/or
    • the warning(s) were made at the time of or shortly before the commission of the offence.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when considering the significance of this factor.

  • Commission of offence whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    The fact that an offender is voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the offence will tend to increase the seriousness of the offence provided that the intoxication has contributed to the offending.

    This applies regardless of whether the offender is under the influence of legal or illegal substance(s).

    In the case of a person addicted to drugs or alcohol the intoxication may be considered not to be voluntary, but the court should have regard to the extent to which the offender has sought help or engaged with any assistance which has been offered or made available in dealing with the addiction.

    An offender who has voluntarily consumed drugs and/or alcohol must accept the consequences of the behaviour that results, even if it is out of character.

     

  • Offence involved use of a weapon

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • A ‘weapon’ can take many forms
    • The use or production of a weapon has relevance
      • to the culpability of the offender where it indicates planning or intention to cause harm; and
      • to the harm caused (both physical or psychological) or the potential for harm.
    • Relevant considerations will include:
      • the dangerousness of the weapon;
      • whether the offender brought the weapon to the scene, or just used what was available on impulse;
      • whether the offender made or adapted something for use as a weapon;
      • the context in which the weapon was threatened, used or produced.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when assessing the relevance of this factor to culpability.

  • Other(s) put at risk of harm by the offending

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • Where there is risk of harm to other(s) not taken in account at step one and not subject to a separate charge, this makes the offence more serious.
    • Dealing with a risk of harm involves consideration of both the likelihood of harm occurring and the extent of it if it does.

    Where any such risk of harm is the subject of separate charges, this should be taken into account when assessing totality.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when considering the significance of this factor.

  • Actions after the event (including but not limited to attempts to cover up/conceal evidence)

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    The more sophisticated, extensive or persistent the actions after the event, the more likely it is to increase the seriousness of the offence.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and lack of maturity when considering the significance of such conduct.

    Where any such actions are the subject of separate charges, this should be taken into account when assessing totality.

  • Investigation has been hindered and/or other(s) have suffered as a result of being falsely blamed by the offender

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • Where the investigation has been hindered and/or other(s) have suffered as a result of being wrongly blamed by the offender, this will make the offence more serious.
    • This factor will not be engaged where an offender has simply exercised his or her right not to assist the investigation or accept responsibility for the offending.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and lack of maturity when considering the significance of such conduct.

  • Offence committed on licence or post sentence supervision or while subject to court order(s)

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • An offender who is subject to licence or post sentence supervision is under a particular obligation to desist from further offending.
    • Commission of an offence while subject to a relevant court order makes the offence more serious.
    • The extent to which the offender has complied with the conditions of a licence or order (including the time that has elapsed since its commencement) will be a relevant consideration.
    • Where the offender is dealt with separately for a breach of a licence or order regard should be had to totality
    • Care should be taken to avoid double counting matters taken into account when considering previous convictions.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when considering the significance of this factor.

Factors reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation

  • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    • First time offenders usually represent a lower risk of reoffending. Reoffending rates for first offenders are significantly lower than rates for repeat offenders. In addition, first offenders are normally regarded as less blameworthy than offenders who have committed the same crime several times already. For these reasons first offenders receive a mitigated sentence.
    • Where there are previous offences but these are old and /or are for offending of a different nature, the sentence will normally be reduced to reflect that the new offence is not part of a pattern of offending and there is therefore a lower likelihood of reoffending.
    • When assessing whether a previous conviction is ‘recent’ the court should consider the time gap since the previous conviction and the reason for it. 
    • Previous convictions are likely to be ‘relevant’ when they share characteristics with the current offence (examples of such characteristics include, but are not limited to: dishonesty, violence, abuse of position or trust, use or possession of weapons, disobedience of court orders).  In general the more serious the previous offending the longer it will retain relevance.
  • Remorse

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    The court will need to be satisfied that the offender is genuinely remorseful for the offending behaviour in order to reduce the sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction).

    Lack of remorse should never be treated as an aggravating factor.

  • Attempts to assist the victim
  • Self-reporting and/or co-operation with the investigation

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    Where an offender has self-reported to the authorities, particularly in circumstances where the offence may otherwise have gone undetected, this should reduce the sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction).

  • For reasons beyond the offender’s control, the offender lacked the necessary expertise, equipment, support or training which contributed to the negligent conduct
  • For reasons beyond the offender’s control, the offender was subject to stress or pressure (including from competing or complex demands) which related to and contributed to the negligent conduct
  • For reasons beyond the offender’s control, the negligent conduct occurred in circumstances where there was reduced scope for exercising usual care and competence
  • The negligent conduct was compounded by the actions or omissions of others beyond the offender’s control
  • Good character and/or exemplary conduct

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    This factor may apply whether or not the offender has previous convictions.  Evidence that an offender has demonstrated positive good character through, for example, charitable works may reduce the sentence. 

    However, this factor is less likely to be relevant where the offending is very serious.  Where an offender has used their good character or status to facilitate or conceal the offending it could be treated as an aggravating factor.

  • Serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive or long-term treatment

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • The court can take account of physical disability or a serious medical condition by way of mitigation as a reason for reducing the length of the sentence, either on the ground of the greater impact which imprisonment will have on the offender, or as a matter of generally expressed mercy in the individual circumstances of the case.
    • However, such a condition, even when it is difficult to treat in prison, will not automatically entitle the offender to a lesser sentence than would otherwise be appropriate.
    • There will always be a need to balance issues personal to an offender against the gravity of the offending (including the harm done to victims), and the public interest in imposing appropriate punishment for serious offending.
    • A terminal prognosis is not in itself a reason to reduce the sentence even further. The court must impose a sentence that properly meets the aims of sentencing even if it will carry the clear prospect that the offender will die in custody. The prospect of death in the near future will be a matter considered by the prison authorities and the Secretary of State under the early release on compassionate grounds procedure (ERCG).
    • But, an offender’s knowledge that he will likely face the prospect of death in prison, subject only to the ERCG provisions, is a factor that can be considered by the sentencing judge when determining the sentence that it would be just to impose.
  • Mental disorder or learning disability

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    Mental disorders and learning disabilities are different things, although an individual may suffer from both.  A learning disability is a permanent condition developing in childhood, whereas mental illness (or a mental health problem) can develop at any time, and is not necessarily permanent; people can get better and resolve mental health problems with help and treatment.

    In the context of sentencing a broad interpretation of the terms ‘mental disorder’ and learning disabilities’ should be adopted to include:

    • Offenders with an intellectual impairment (low IQ);
    • Offenders with a cognitive impairment such as (but not limited to) dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
    • Offenders with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) including Asperger’s syndrome;
    • Offenders with a personality disorder;
    • Offenders with a mental illness.

    Offenders may have a combination of the above conditions.

    Sentencers should be alert to the fact that not all mental disorders or learning disabilities are visible or obvious.

    A mental disorder or learning disability can affect both:

    1. the offender’s responsibility for the offence and
    2. the impact of the sentence on the offender.

    The court will be assisted by a PSR and, where appropriate, medical reports (including from court mental health teams) in assessing:

    1. the degree to which a mental disorder or learning disability has reduced the offender’s responsibility for the offence. This may be because the condition had an impact on the offender’s ability to understand the consequences of their actions, to limit impulsivity and/or to exercise self-control.
      • a relevant factor will be the degree to which a mental disorder or learning disability has been exacerbated by the actions of the offender (for example by the voluntary abuse of drugs or alcohol or by voluntarily failing to follow medical advice);
      • in considering the extent to which the offender’s actions were voluntary, the extent to which a mental disorder or learning disability has an impact on the offender’s ability to exercise self-control or to engage with medical services will be a relevant consideration.
    1. any effect of the mental disorder or learning disability on the impact of the sentence on the offender; a mental disorder or learning disability may make it more difficult for the offender to cope with custody or comply with a community order.
  • Age and/or lack of maturity

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    Age and/or lack of maturity can affect:

    • the offender’s responsibility for the offence and
    • the effect of the sentence on the offender.

    Either or both of these considerations may justify a reduction in the sentence.

    The emotional and developmental age of an offender is of at least equal importance to their chronological age (if not greater). 

    In particular young adults (typically aged 18-25) are still developing neurologically and consequently may be less able to:

    • evaluate the consequences of their actions
    • limit impulsivity
    • limit risk taking

    Young adults are likely to be susceptible to peer pressure and are more likely to take risks or behave impulsively when in company with their peers.

    Immaturity can also result from atypical brain development. Environment plays a role in neurological development and factors such as adverse childhood experiences including deprivation and/or abuse may affect development.

    An immature offender may find it particularly difficult to cope with custody and therefore may be more susceptible to self-harm in custody.

    An immature offender may find it particularly difficult to cope with the requirements of a community order without appropriate support.

    There is a greater capacity for change in immature offenders and they may be receptive to opportunities to address their offending behaviour and change their conduct.

    Many young people who offend either stop committing crime, or begin a process of stopping, in their late teens and early twenties.  Therefore a young adult’s previous convictions may not be indicative of a tendency for further offending.

    Where the offender is a care leaver the court should enquire as to any effect a sentence may have on the offender’s ability to make use of support from the local authority. (Young adult care leavers are entitled to time limited support. Leaving care services may change at the age of 21 and cease at the age of 25, unless the young adult is in education at that point). See also the Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline (paragraphs 1.16 and 1.17).

    Where an offender has turned 18 between the commission of the offence and conviction the court should take as its starting point the sentence likely to have been imposed on the date at which the offence was committed, but applying the purposes of sentencing adult offenders. See also the Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline (paragraphs 6.1 to 6.3).

    When considering a custodial or community sentence for a young adult the National Probation Service should address these issues in a PSR.

  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    This factor is particularly relevant where an offender is on the cusp of custody or where the suitability of a community order is being considered.  See also the Imposition of community and custodial sentences guideline.

    For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.

    Where custody is unavoidable consideration of the impact on dependants may be relevant to the length of the sentence imposed and whether the sentence can be suspended.

    For more serious offences where a substantial period of custody is appropriate, this factor will carry less weight.

    ­When imposing a community sentence on an offender with primary caring responsibilities the effect on dependants must be considered in determining suitable requirements.

    In addition when sentencing an offender who is pregnant relevant considerations may include:

    • any effect of the sentence on the health of the offender and
    • any effect of the sentence on the unborn child

    The court should ensure that it has all relevant information about dependent children before deciding on sentence.

    When an immediate custodial sentence is necessary, the court must consider whether proper arrangements have been made for the care of any dependent children and if necessary consider adjourning sentence for this to be done.

    When considering a community or custodial sentence for an offender who has, or may have, caring responsibilities the court should ask the National Probation Service to address these issues in a PSR.

    Useful information can be found in the Equal Treatment Bench Book (see in particular Chapter 6 paragraphs 94-100)

     

Step 3 – Consider any factors which indicate a reduction for assistance to the prosecution

The court should take into account sections 73 and 74 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (assistance by defendants: reduction or review of sentence) and any other rule of law by virtue of which an offender may receive a discounted sentence in consequence of assistance given (or offered) to the prosecutor or investigator.

Step 4 – Reduction for guilty pleas

The court should take account of any potential reduction for a guilty plea in accordance with section 144 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the guideline for Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty Plea (where first hearing is on or after 1 June 2017, or first hearing before 1 June 2017).

Step 5 – Dangerousness

The court should consider whether having regard to the criteria contained in Chapter 5 of Part 12 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 it would be appropriate to impose a life sentence (section 224A or section 225) or an extended sentence (section 226A). When sentencing offenders to a life sentence under these provisions, the notional determinate sentence should be used as the basis for the setting of a minimum term.

Step 6 – Totality principle

If sentencing an offender for more than one offence, or where the offender is already serving a sentence, consider whether the total sentence is just and proportionate to the overall offending behaviour in accordance with the Totality guideline.

Step 7 – Compensation and ancillary orders

In all cases the court should consider whether to make compensation and/or other ancillary orders.

In appropriate cases an offender may be disqualified from being a director of a company in accordance with section 2 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986. The maximum period of disqualification is 15 years.

Step 8 – Reasons

Section 174 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 imposes a duty to give reasons for, and explain the effect of, the sentence.

Step 9 – Consideration for time spent on bail (tagged curfew)

The court must consider whether to give credit for time spent on bail in accordance with section 240A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.