Closed petition Increase sentences for one punch assaults that kill to equal those for murder

I want them to change the law with one punch crimes .making it murder when you hit someone from behind for no reason. My nephew Dean skillin was punched from behind on a night out with friends. He was hit that hard he was Dead before he hit the floor .The man who hit him was a skilled fighter .

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I want the Government to make minimum and maximum sentences for assaults where a single punch leads to death equal to those for murder. One punch can kill, and where it does offenders should face penalties equivalent to those for murder.

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 February 2022

Manslaughter has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. It is important that judges are able to sentence appropriately according to all the factors in each case.

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Ministers are extremely sorry to hear of the tragic death of Mr Skillin and extend their deepest condolences to his family and friends.

‘One punch’ manslaughter refers to cases where an offender hits a victim once, but this is sufficient to cause the death of the victim. Where these instances occur without intent to kill, they are often prosecuted as manslaughter – specifically unlawful act manslaughter.

Murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence. When a life sentence is imposed, the court has to determine the minimum period to be served in custody (the tariff). Only when this period has been served in full may the offender be considered for release by the Parole Board which will only release a prisoner if it is satisfied that it is safe to do so.

Many such offenders remain in prison beyond their minimum term and some may never be released. If and when the offender is released, they will remain on licence for the rest of their life and be subject to recall to prison at any time. A life sentence therefore remains in force for the whole of the offender’s life.

Manslaughter is an extremely serious crime and as such it carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment though a life sentence is not mandatory. Judges have the discretion to award a life sentence if the circumstances of the case are thought to be sufficiently serious. However, the court is also able to impose a range of other sentences depending on the circumstances of the case.

Sentencing is a matter for our independent courts. When sentencing, the court must have regard to the relevant Sentencing Guidelines produced by the independent Sentencing Council. The guideline for unlawful act manslaughter takes into account the offender’s level of culpability, including the seriousness of the unlawful act that caused the death (in ‘one punch’ cases, the assault itself), the role played by the offender, the intention to cause harm, the obviousness of the risk of serious harm, actions after the event, and the offender’s individual circumstances. The guideline also includes non-exhaustive lists of aggravating and mitigating factors, which give the court the opportunity to consider the wider context of the offence and any relevant circumstances relating to the offender.

These types of cases can vary enormously in the planning and intention of the offender. For example, there could be a minor argument between friends where one pushes the other who unexpectedly falls and suffers fatal injuries. In another situation, someone with a history of violence may go out looking for a fight and hit a stranger as hard as possible in an unprovoked attack, resulting in a fatality. The harm in both cases is similar as death has occurred, but the culpability of the offenders is very different. It is the responsibility of the court to apply the statutory guidance, the Guidelines, and all relevant factors to the circumstances of the particular case.

Given the wide range of circumstances which could result in a manslaughter conviction including those classed as unlawful act manslaughter, it is important that the court retains as much flexibility as possible in setting the sentence and it would therefore be inappropriate to require a life sentence in every case.
There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter. Minimum sentences are very rarely used in criminal law in England and Wales and even where a minimum sentence does apply the court retains a discretion not to impose the sentence where it would be unjust to do so in a particular case.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently before Parliament, is making important amendments to the sentencing framework. It will alter how the custodial period for discretionary life sentences are calculated; courts will base the starting point of at least two thirds of the determinate sentence instead of half of such a sentence as at present. This means that those serving life sentences for manslaughter will serve longer in prison before they become eligible to be considered for release by the Parole Board, thereby ensuring that the minimum amount of time spent in custody better reflects the severity of the crime.
The Bill is also ensuring that any offenders convicted of manslaughter who receive a Standard Determinate Sentence (SDS) of between 4–7 years will serve two-thirds of their sentence in custody instead of half. This will bring the release point for those offenders into line with serious violent and sexual offenders sentenced to 7 years or more.

Last year, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for One Punch Assaults was launched, chaired by Dehenna Davison MP. Its stated aim is to look at justice and sentencing reform, and raise awareness of one punch assaults. The APPG is calling on those with an interest, including victims of one punch assaults and their loved ones, to feed into their inquiry. Interested parties may wish to approach them directly to share their experiences.

Ministry of Justice