Sentencing Manslaughter involving Multiple Offenders and Victims: The Challenge of Calibrating Culpability
18 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 15, 2021
Sentencing for multiple offences poses many challenges and becomes even more complex when the crimes resulted in fatalities. This article uses the sentences imposed following convictions in the Essex lorry deaths to pose some general questions about the sentencing of multiple victim manslaughters. Four principal offenders were convicted of 39 counts of unlawful act manslaughter as well as conspiracy to facilitate unlawful immigration into the UK. The analysis identifies several ways in which the sentences ultimately imposed failed to adequately distinguish between offenders of very different levels of culpability. First, the offenders were assigned to the same level of culpability. Second, despite their different culpability levels, the same starting point was imposed on all offenders. Third, the multiple offence uplifts were similar across differentially culpable offenders. Fourth, the differential additional punishments for the conspiracy conviction – which would have separated the offenders' time in custody further – were washed out by being made concurrent. Some general lessons for sentencing in these cases are drawn, regarding the application of the Sentencing Council's guidelines.
Keywords: sentencing manslaughter; multiple offence sentencing
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