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Sentencing Council implements changes to manslaughter guidelines and introduces new guidance for pregnant offenders

Sentencing Council implements changes to manslaughter guidelines and introduces new guidance for pregnant offenders


The Sentencing Council announces amendments to manslaughter guidelines and new guidance for pregnant offenders, effective April 1, 2024

The Sentencing Council has finalised changes to several sentencing guidelines following a consultation on miscellaneous amendments. Set to take effect on April 1, 2024, these changes address recommendations from various reviews and introduce new mitigating factors, particularly for pregnant offenders.

One significant change involves amendments to the manslaughter guidelines, prompted by recommendations from the Domestic Homicide Sentencing Review. These amendments include incorporating references to coercive or controlling behaviour and introducing a new aggravating factor related to the use of strangulation, suffocation, or asphyxiation. These updates aim to ensure consistency and reflect contemporary understanding of serious offenses.

Moreover, the Council introduces a dedicated mitigating factor, "Pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal care," in most offense-specific sentencing guidelines. This factor replaces previous guidance on sentencing pregnant offenders, providing courts with clearer guidance when considering the circumstances of pregnant or post-natal women. By emphasising this factor, the Council aims to ensure fairer and more informed sentencing decisions.

Additionally, amendments to the Fraud guideline aim to acknowledge the impact on victims, even in cases with minimal financial loss. Similarly, revisions to the guideline for sentencing individuals for fly-tipping and other environmental offenses prioritise community orders over fines, aligning sentencing practices with environmental protection goals.

Sentencing Council chairman, Lord Justice William Davis, emphasises that these amendments, derived from consultations conducted in 2023, aim to improve guideline clarity, incorporate legal developments, and address recommendations from independent reports. Miscellaneous amendments are made in response to substantial user feedback, ensuring guidelines remain relevant and effective.

The changes to manslaughter guidelines are particularly significant, aligning sentencing practices with evolving understandings of serious offenses. Other amendments reflect the Council's commitment to promoting equality, diversity, and environmental responsibility in sentencing decisions.

It's essential to note that sentencing guidelines are mandatory unless the court determines that deviating from them is necessary in the interest of justice. The Sentencing Council operates independently but is accountable to Parliament, ensuring transparency and scrutiny of its work.

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