Sentencing for homicide
Sentencing for manslaughter
11.69The maximum sentence for manslaughter is life imprisonment. There is no minimum sentence, and sentencing is highly fact dependent.
11.70Where manslaughter results from the deliberate infliction of injury, an established approach is for the judge to begin with the bands for grievous bodily harm established in R v Taueki. This reflects the fact that manslaughter is inadvertent killing and, as such, the focus should be on the action that caused the death and not only the result. For example, in R v Leuta the Court of Appeal stated:
In sentencing in cases of violent offending the element of deterrence must be directed towards the aspect of the conduct of the offender which was intentional and which created the risk of serious harm or death. In the case of manslaughter the likely deterrent effect of sterner sentences must be measured against that aspect, not against the unintended consequence of death.
11.71This ensures a level of consistency in how manslaughter offending is treated compared with the position if the same action had not resulted in death. There have been exceptional cases where following a guilty plea, an offender has been discharged without conviction. At the other end of the spectrum, cases of severe child abuse leading to death commonly result in terms of over 10 years’ imprisonment and, in one case, 16 years’ imprisonment.