Employers who disregard the safety of employees should face tougher sentences for manslaughter if they ignored previous warnings, the Law Society has suggested.

Responding to the Sentencing Council's proposed guidelines for manslaughter offences, Chancery Lane says previous disciplinary or professional breaches should also be regarded as an aggravating factor in cases involving manslaughter by gross negligence. High culpability should apply if the offender is in a senior management or training role.

Chancery Lane believes mitigating factors should include: a lack of proper training; taking advice from a senior colleague; following internal guidance; being overworked or stressed due to matters outside of the offender's control; early acknowledgement of responsibility or whistleblowing.

Developing a guideline for manslaughter by gross negligence was 'particularly challenging', the council said in its consultation paper, 'because the offence occurs relatively rarely but in a very wide range of circumstances'. 

Starting points and ranges were broadly based on current sentencing practice based on analysis of first-instance transcripts and Court of Appeal judgments. The council concluded that it would be appropriate for sentences to increase in some situations. However, the Society says the proposed ranges and starting points 'seem high' for the negligence-based offences.

The draft guidelines also cover unlawful acts, which are the most commonly prosecuted form of manslaughter, manslaughter by reason of loss of control, and manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

The consultation closes on 10 October.