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What is involuntary manslaughter in law?
- The AR of murder exists but the MR is missing
- This very broad offence can be committed in different ways
Why is there a law on involuntary manslaughter?
- Few people set out to commit murder so involuntary manslaughter covers a range of situations in which death occurs unlawfully
- Gives judical discretion in sentencing which helps juries who may not like the responsibility of convicting when MR is hard to prove and the mandatory life sentence follows.
Unlawful act manslaughter (UAM)
- Also know as constructive manslaughter
- Liability is built up from several different elements
- Defendant may not have realised death or even injury might occur.
The elements - unlawful act manslaughter.
- An unlawful act
- Dangerous act
- Causing the death
- The MR for the initial unlawful act
- The act must be an unlawful criminal act
- D not liable for manslaughter as only a civil wrong - Franklin 1883 - D threw box off pier into sea which hit and killed swimmer.
- D not liable for manslaughter as omission is insufficient - Lowe 1973 - D convicted of wilful neglect and manslaughter of baby son - D convicted for manslaughter quashed as no act when D failed to care for child.
- Lamb 1967 - D killed friend with a revolver containing two bullets but both believed gun would not fire - D not liable as no assault friend did not fear violence and D believed no bullet would fire.
A Dangerous act
Objective test from Chuch (1966) an act 'such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting there from albeit not serious harm'
A Dangerous act key cases
- Does not need to be against a person - Goodfellow 1986 - D set fire to council house and killed three people - convition upheld even although unlawful act was against property
- Larkin 1943 - Women killed when fell on to cut-throat razor D brandishing at another man - D conviction upheld as threatening to assault man and objectively dangerous as someone likely to be injured.
- D's act is objectivity dangerous and D can be convicted even though someone other than original person suffered harm - Mitchell 1983 - D hit a man in post office queue. He fell into 89 year old woman who died.
- D or a reasonable person has to be aware of the of the victim condition - Dawson 1985 - D and another held up petrol station with masks, sticks and fake gun. Attendant with a heart condition died of a heart attack
- Particular problem exists in relation to cases involving drugs
- Self-injection breaks the chain of causation - Kennedy 2007 - D prepared syringe containing heroin and gave it to person who self-injected and died - conviction quashed.
- Rogers 2003 - D held a tourniquet around man's arm. Man self-injected and died. - D convicted of using s23 OAPA 1961 as self - injection only occurred because of D.
- Cato 1976 - D and another prepared syringes containing heroin and injected each other. The man D injected died. - D convicted of manslaughter based on unlawful act under s23 OAPA 1861.
Mens Rea - Unlawful act manslaughter
- Must be MR for the initial unlawful act
- Defendant need not realise their act is unlawful or dangerous - shown Newbury and Jones 1977 - D's were teenage boys who threw part of paving stone on the railway track, hitting train and killing guard - Conviction upheld as only needed MR for act and no need to foresee resulting harm.
Unlawful act Manslaughter criticisms.
- Encompasses a wide range of conduct so levels of blame can be variable
- Breadth of sentencing is also variable and may not match the blameworthiness
- Possible inconsistency as some defendants appear to have seen risks in their conduct while for others death is an unexpected result.
- Part of the test is objective. This us at odds with other areas where, using recklessness as MR, the test is subjective