Criminal law

Criminal law, murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, defences

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Revision Notes ­ Unit 3
Section A Criminal Law (Fatal and nonfatal offences against the person)
Murder Actus reus (including causation) (Page 1 and 2),
mens rea (malice aforethought) (Page 2 and 3).
Voluntary manslaughter Defences of provocation and diminished responsibility (page 3 and 4).
Involuntary manslaughter Gross negligence manslaughter, unlawful act manslaughter. (page 4).
Nonfatal offences against the person Assault, battery, actual bodily harm, wounding and grievous bodily
harm, wounding and grievous bodily harm with intent. (page 4 and 5).
Defences Insanity, automatism, intoxication, consent, selfdefence/prevention
of crime, mistake. (Page 5).
Evaluation Critical evaluation of all of the above (with the exception of involuntary
manslaughter), including consideration of proposals for reform. (Pages 6, 7 and 8).
Actus Reus: The unlawful killing of a reasonable creature in being,
under the Queen's Peace, within the country of the realm. The actus
reus can be an act or omission but must cause the death of the victim.
Omissions: The normal rule is that an omission will not make a person guilty of an offence.
This was explained by Stephen J, a nineteenth Century judge. If a person is able to save a life
but abstains from doing so that person is not guilty of an offence.
EXCEPTIONS: a contractual duty (Pittwood, 1902), duty from relationship (Gibbins v Proctor, 1918.
Downes, 1875. Stone v Dobinson 1977.), a duty taken voluntarily (partner in Gibbins v Proctor and
Stone v Dobinson), a duty arising because the defendant set in motion the chain of events (R v
Reasonable Person in being: two problem areas ­ foetus and brain dead. A child must have
`existence independent of the mother' to be considered a `creature in being'. Must be expelled
from her body and have independent circulation. The umbilical cord need not have been cut and
the child need not have taken its first breath. Attorney ­ General's Reference (No 3 of 1994)
Malcherick (1981).

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Direct intention: Defined in Mohan (1975) as `the decision
to bring about, so far as it lies in the defendant's power, the criminal consequence
and he aims to do so'.
Oblique intention: The court must consider the issues of probability and the defendant's
subjective ability to foresee. A result seen as `virtually certain' is an intended result. Woollin,
Nedrick, Maloney, Hancocke.
Voluntary Manslaughter
Murder may be reduced to voluntary manslaughter if the defendant pleads a successful defence
of diminished responsibility, provocation, suicide pact or infanticide.…read more

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Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is defined as unlawful killing without malice aforethought (intent to kill
or commit GBH).
Gross negligence manslaughter: Requires an omission. Based on civil tort (Caparro . Requires a
duty, a breach that causes death and be so grossly negligence the jury considers it warrants a
criminal conviction.…read more

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Malicious Wounding or
Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm S20/S18 Offences Against the Person Act (1861): Actus reus,
wound defined as breaking all layers of the skin, Eisenhower. Grievous bodily harm defined as
`really serious harm' DPP v Smith, revised to `serious harm' in R v Saunders. Mens rea (S20)
Intention or recklessness to cause some harm, RvMawatt, RvGrimshaw. [Max 5 year
imprisonment] Mens rea (S18) specific intent crime, intention oblique or direct. Intent to cause
GBH or to avoid arrest. (page 3).…read more

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Palmer, Clegg,
Martin. Self defence may be preemptive, Beckford. If the defendant mistakenly believes he is
being threatened or a crime being committed they will be judged on the facts as they believed
them to be and allowed a reasonable degree of force, Williams and Beckford. Drunken mistake is
no defence, O'Grady.
Mistake: Ignorance of criminal law is no defence, even where reasonable, R v Reid.…read more

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Ian Yule astutely renders these sentences to `lack even a semblance of consistency or coherence.'
Teamed with inconsistency in sentencing are specific actus reus and mens rea problems.
Assault and battery are separate offences that remain common law, although their individual
characteristics are defined in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, s.39. There is considerable uncertainty
regarding the definition of the `immediate infliction of force'.…read more


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