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 judicial 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 known as constructive manslaughter
Liability is built up from several different elements
Defendants may not have realised death or even injury might occur.
Unlawful act UAM
Must be an unlawful criminal act
D not liable for manslaughter as only a civil wrong - Franlin 1883 - D threw box off pier into sea which hit and killed a swimmer.
D not liable for manslaughter if its committed through omission - Lowe 1973 - D convicted of wilful neglect and manslaughter of baby son - conviction quashed as no act when D failed to care for child.
Not liable if V didn't fear violence - Lamb 1967 - D killed friend with a revolver containing two bullets but both believed gun would not fire - Not liable as no assault since friend did not fear violence and D believed no bullet would fire.
Dangerous Act UAM
Objective test from Church 1966 an act 'such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, the risk of some harm resulting there from, albeit not serious harm'
Dangerous Act Key cases UAM
Does need to be against a person - Goodfellow 1986 - D set fire to council house and killed three people - conviction upheld although act was against property.
D's dangerous act can endanger someone other than the original person suffered harm - Mitchell 1983 - D hit man in post office queue. He fell in 89 year old woman who died
Not liable if D or a reasonable person can not be aware of 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 - conviction quashed.
D is not liable if other factors contributed - Carey 2006 - Girl ran away from gang who attacked her and died of a heart condition worsened by running away - D conviction quashed only one punch.
Causing death UAM
Particular problem exist 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.
Self-injection can be liable if only occurred because of D - Rogers 2003 - D held tourniquet around man's arm. Man self-injected drug and died. - Convicted of manslaughter using s23 OAPA 1861
D's conviction can be based on an unlawful act under s23 OAPA 1861 - Cato 1976 - D and another prepared syringes containing heroin and injected each other. The man D injected died.
Mens Rea UAM
Must be MR for the initial unlawful act
Defendant need not realise their act is unlawful or dangerous. - Newbury and Jones (1977) - D's were teenage boys who threw part of paving stone on to railway track, hitting train and killing guard - conviction upheld as only needed MR for act and no need to foresee resulting harm.
Critisms of UAM
Emcompasses a wider range of conduct so levels of blame can be variable
Breadth of sentencing is also variable and may not match blameworthiness
Possible inconsistency as some defendants appear to have seen risks in their conduct while others death is an unexpected result
Part of the test is objective. This is at odds with other areas where, using recklessness as MR, the test is subjective.
Gross negligence manslaughter
Defined by Adamako 1995:
Must be a duty of care
Duty breached by act or ommission
Death must be caused
Breach must be so grossly negligent as to justify criminal conviction in jury's eyes
Duty of care
Defined by principles of negligence in Donoghue v Stevenson 1932 - with a duty being owned to neighbour - person so closely and directly affected by an act that it would be reasonable to have them in contemplation at the time of the act or omission
Breach of duty causing death
Must be a breach - Litchfield 1998 - D owned and captained ship. D set sail knowing engines might fail and three of crew died - duty owed to crew
Singh 1999 - D was landlord of a property where a faulty gas fire caused death - D convicted as duty to maintain and manage property
Duty can be owed even through criminal enterprise - Wacker 2002 - D brought 60 illegal immigrants into UK in lorry on cross channel ferry. D closed air vent killing 58 immigrants - D's convictions were upheld by CA as knew immigrants relied on him
Evans 2009 - D brought heroin and gave to half sister, who self-injected. When girl collapsed D and mother put girl to bed, hoping she would recover but she died - D and mother convicted of GNM. Mother had duty to care for child and D created state of affairs in which she knew, or ought reasonably to have know of risk to half sisters life.
Must be proof of causation
Term is defined by the courts
Combines civil and criminal principles
Lord Hewart in Bateman 1925: stated that the negligence must be gross 'such disregard for the life and safety of V as to amount to a crime'.
Lord Atkins in Andres v DPP 1937: states a very high degree of negligence was needed - a 'criminal disregard' for others' safety.
Lord Mackay in Adomako 1995: the jury had to decide whether in all the circumstances, and having regard to the risk of death, the defendant's conduct was so bad as to be criminal.
Must be a risk of death
Gross Negligence key cases
Bateman 1925 - B was a doctor who attended a woman in childbirth. Despite medical problem D did not send woman to hospital for five days and she died. - conviction quashed
Misra and others 2004 - D and another doctor failed to identify and treat infection in patient after a knee operation who then died. - CA upheld conviction as risk of death and argument that elements of gross negligence is unclear
Criticisms of GNM
Circular test - gross negligence is assessed by whether the act is bad enough to be criminal; it is bad enough if it is grossly negligent - done by a failure to act?
Jury interpretation can be inconsistent
Based on criminal conviction on civil law principles may be inappropriation
Some doubt to whether the offence exists
It is rarely used in practice
Lidar 2000 - D and friends were leaving the pub. He got into his car and a man shouted for the door man to come over - whilst teh doorman was half in the car D drove off. V was dragged under the wheels and died - D was convicted as he had seen the risk and decided to run it.
The law commission report 2006 Murder, manslaughter and infanticide - Should be different degrees of murder as shown in America - some crimes presently classified as manslaughter would be upgraded to second degree murder if a defendant was so reckless that they in fact intended to cause injury or a fear or risk of injury.
For Gross negligence manslaughter it is still possible for the defendant to be conviction even though they were unaware their conduct may cause death as long as they were capable of appreciating the risk at the relevant time. However reform would protect those who cannot appreciate the risk, perhaps through youth or mental disability.