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A Guide to Manslaughter Defences

What is the sentence for Manslaughter in 2024?

Manslaughter is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

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The definition of manslaughter is murder but without premeditation (planned in advance). It falls into two areas:

Voluntary manslaughter – the accused is found to be intent on either killing or seriously harming the victim. It will only stand up in Court if the accused pleads guilty to either loss of control or reduced mental capacity.

Involuntary manslaughter – the accused is found to be guilty of murder, although there is no apparent motive for this crime.

Corporate manslaughter – an organisation is convicted of causing the death of an individual.

There is also vehicular manslaughter which is when somebody dies from illegally driving a vehicle, with one of these dangerous driving offences involved:

  • Drunk driving
  • Gross negligence
  • Drug driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Speeding

Here are some of the questions that our clients ask about sentencing for this offence.  If you can’t find what you need here, please get in touch.

It’s important to note that engaging an experienced solicitor with expertise in defending manslaughter cases may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or avoided entirely.

Have you been charged or arrested for manslaughter? 

The success of any case depends on you being supported throughout the manslaughter investigation. A competent and experienced solicitor will be able to give you the guidance you need to get a more favourable outcome. Right from the initial police interview, through to the conclusion of the trial, an experienced solicitor will advise you on what to say and what not to say so that you get the best possible outcome.

Anybody who is under police investigation, no matter what the crime is, will be feeling anxious and nervous. Being charged or arrested will put your entire family on edge, and we understand that.

What type of actions are involved in manslaughter?

A few examples of previous cases of manslaughter include:

  • A defendant was walking along a pier and picked up a box that did not belong to him. He threw it into the sea where is hit a swimmer and killed him.
  • A defendant picked up a gun and pointed it at his friend. He did not understand the mechanism of the weapon and was just playing around with his friend. He pulled the trigger, and it shot his friend dead.
  • A defendant was at the train station, and somebody who was frightened of him was there. The defendant did not chase or threaten the person, but they were so frightened that they ran onto a live track to get away and died.
  • A defendant agreed with a friend that they would inject each other with heroin. In the morning, the friend was dead.

What is the average sentence for manslaughter?  

The sentence for any manslaughter case is at the discretion of the Judge. The minimum penalty is a community order, and the maximum sentence is a life sentence. The average life sentence in the UK is 15 years before the prisoner may be eligible for parole.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the manslaughter sentence?

Certain facts of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the Court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous convictions
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was initially legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any severe medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for manslaughter with a guilty plea?

In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early-on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences (cases brought to a jury), the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure. However, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge, who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the 10% reduction could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the Court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

Read about possible defences for Manslaughter offences

What are some of the other consequences of a manslaughter offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a manslaughter offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of manslaughter include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Being on licence
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the Court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining enough evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to Court and you are convicted of manslaughter, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

It’s no secret that the Stuart Miller Solicitors possess some of the best legal minds in the country. Having defended complex cases of murder, soliciting to murder and manslaughter cases for over 30 years, we are a team you can depend on to get you the most favourable outcome of any circumstance.

Over the three decades that we’ve been in operation, our network has extended to include some of the best Barristers, QCs and expert witnesses across the nation. Every client that we take on benefits from the collective abilities of our extended team.

Applying our experience for impressive results means that we secure many acquittals and reduced sentences in all types of cases.

Arrest & Interview

The first time you’ll hear about being part of a manslaughter case is when the police contact you. You will typically be arrested and taken to the police station to talk about what happened.

The goal of the police force is to secure convictions. Even if what happened in your case was not an intended outcome, the police will still be working on achieving their goal. They may have some evidence on you of which you are not aware.

By taking a lawyer with you to the interview, the lawyer can demand to see all evidence that the police have in their possession. The lawyer can then start working on crafting a robust defence strategy.

It’s the role of the prosecution to prove that you are guilty, and the role of the solicitor to argue against their proof. Just as the prosecution can collect evidence to strengthen their argument, the legal team can gather their own opposing evidence and break down the evidence produced by the prosecution.

Our lawyers support you throughout the process. Not only will you receive legal advice, but are updated on all proceedings along the way. We know how hard any situation like this is, and we know what makes the difference when it comes to being there for you.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

You are invited for a free consultation to discuss your case and express your concerns. Our legal team have vast experience of defending in cases such as yours and are here to support and guide you.

During the session, you can express your concerns and ask questions about what the outcome of any trial may be. It’s also a chance for you to learn about what we might be able to do for you in terms of getting your case dismissed.

Please contact us to arrange to meet us in person or over the phone. Also, we can look into arranging Legal Aid for you. If for some reason, you do not qualify, it’s important to note that our fees are highly competitive and we don’t add on unexpected charges.


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