What is Gross Negligence Manslaughter?
The way Gross Negligence Manslaughter is sentenced has undergone significant development in England and Wales in recent years, but are you confident that you know exactly what it is?
Essentially there are 4 key elements to Gross Negligence Manslaughter:
- A duty of care owed by the defendant to the victim
- A breach of that duty of care, applying the principles of negligence
- The death of the victim caused by breach of the duty of care
- Proof that the defendant’s conduct departed from the proper standard of care. As this involved the death of the victim, this also should be judged as criminal.
Gross negligence manslaughter is a form of involuntary manslaughter – in these cases the defendant has been acting lawfully.
This involuntary manslaughter may have arisen where the defendant has caused death but neither intended to cause death nor intended to cause serious bodily harm. This means that the defendant has not committed murder but an accidental death by other means.
How is it different to Constructive Manslaughter?
Gross negligence manslaughter is not committed by an unlawful act, whereas constructive manslaughter is.
Where gross negligence manslaughter can be committed by omission, constructive manslaughter applies when unlawful actions by the defendant have caused the accidental death of the victim.
A case example
R v Adomako  3 WLR 288 House of Lords
In this case, the appellant was an anaesthetist in charge of a patient during an eye operation. During the operation an oxygen pipe became disconnected and the patient died. The appellant failed to notice or respond to obvious signs of disconnection. The jury convicted him of gross negligence manslaughter.
This meant that the jury’s main question was whether the conduct of the defendant was such that it constitutes an unlawful act, or whether this was an omission.
David Lawson, head of DRN’S Regulatory team explains the jury’s process further.
“A jury in a gross negligence manslaughter case must apply an objective assessment of whether there was a serious and obvious risk of death. Effectively, as long as the reasonably competent professional would have appreciated the obvious risk of death, liability cannot be avoided simply on the basis that the defendant was incompetent and that he or she had not appreciated that risk.”
David’s regulatory team are able to offer advice to businesses facing health and safety investigations and/or prosecutions. Further to this, DRN’s Commercial Litigation Department are experienced with undertaking extensive reviews of businesses in relation to a range of matters including employment, commercial and contractual matters.
Dependant on the size of the business annual retainers are appropriate and can be arranged.
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