Involuntary Manslaughter

Detailed essay plan for Involuntary Manslaughter with AO1 and AO2 links.

(I've added everything in this but obviously it can be adapted for a specific question and the arrows/stars are so I mixed the AO2 stuff with the AO1)

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  • Created on: 28-04-14 20:08
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Involuntary Manslaughter Essay Plan
Introduction: Involuntary Manslaughter is an
unlawful killing where the defendant does not have
the intention, either direct or oblique, to kill or cause
grievous bodily harm. This lack of intention is what
distinguishes involuntary manslaughter for murder.
There are three ways of committing involuntary
manslaughter; unlawful act manslaughter, gross
negligence manslaughter and reckless
manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter covers a
wide range of circumstances and the maximum
sentence that can be given is life imprisonment,
giving the judge the discretion to impose a sentence
suitable for the case at hand.
Unlawful Act Manslaughter Facts (AO1) Unlawful Act Manslaughter Comments (AO2)
1. D must do an unlawful act. The unlawful act must Unlawful act manslaughter covers a very wide
be a criminal offence. In Franklin (1883) the
defendant threw a box into the sea, killing a passing range of conduct, from a simple assault to conduct
swimmer. It was held that a civil wrong is not just short of murder. The level of blameworthiness
enough to create liability for unlawful act for each defendant is hugely varied. If there were
manslaughter. Another case showing that there different levels to the offence it would be fairer to
must be a criminal unlawful act is Lamb (1967); the the defendant and also aid judges. At the moment,
pointing of the gun at V was not an assault because the judges have full discretion so can give any
V did not fear any violence from D. There must be sentence from a fine to a life imprisonment. The
an act. An omission cannot create liability for judge has to make a decision depending on the
unlawful act manslaughter as shown in Lowe level of blameworthiness so if there were categories
(1973). within the offence there may be less varied
2. The unlawful act must be dangerous on an sentences. This would protect the public whilst still
objective test, as held in Church (1966). The risk being fair on the defendant.
may only need to be of `some harm'. If a sober and The 1996 Law Commission Report, Legislating
reasonable person would have seen that the the
unlawful act may cause at least `some harm' then
this part of the test is satisfied. The case of Larkin Criminal Code: Involuntary Manslaughter,
(1943) shows both the need for an unlawful act and recommended the abolition of involuntary
the risk of some harm, on an objective viewpoint. manslaughter. They criticised the concept of
The case also shows that the act need not be aimed unlawful act manslaughter, highlighting the problem
at the victim because the assault was against the of having an objective test. It is absurd for it not to
man but the woman was the victim. This was then matter whether or not the defendant did not realise
followed in Mitchell (1983). All elements for there was any risk of harm to another person. This
unlawful act manslaughter are present in both cases conflicts with the law on offences where
so both defendants were guilty, despite the fact that recklessness is required for mens rea, as under the
in each case the unlawful act was not aimed at the law on recklessness it must be shown that the
victim who died. defendant was aware of the risk. Crimes for which
The act need not even be aimed at a person; it can reckless can constitute as mens rea are less serious
be aimed at person's property as long as it was offences, so why should a defendant be convicted
seen as dangerous on an objective test in the sense of manslaughter ­ and face up to a lifetime
that it is likely to cause harm. This was illustrated in imprisonment ­ when he was not aware of the risk
the case of Goodfellow (1986) where the defendant of some harm?
set fire to a flat, causing three deaths. In many cases, the death is not a foreseeable
The `risk of harm' refers to physical harm.
Something which causes fear and apprehension is outcome of the defendant's actions. In Mitchell
not sufficient. This is so even if it causes the victim (1983) the defendant punched a man who staggered
to have a heart attack. This meant that in the case back into a woman (V) who later died of her injuries.
of Dawson (1985) the convictions were quashed This can be compared to Cato (1976) where the
even though they caused a petrol station attendant defendant injected the victim with heroin. Both
to die of a heart attack as they tried to rob it. defendants would be found guilty of the same
However, where a reasonable person would be

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This was decided in blameworthiness is equal, which links back into
Watson (1989). there possibly being different categories of the
3. The unlawful act must cause the death. The rules offence.
of causation are for the same as murder. The The House of Lords did accept that there could
important point is that if there is an intervening act
which breaks the chain of causation then the be situations in which it could be regarded that both
defendant cannot be liable for manslaughter.…read more

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Gross Negligence Manslaughter Comments (AO2)
the death. It can be committed by an act or an An interesting point in the case of Wacker
omission, neither of which has to be unlawful. The (2002)
leading case is Adomako (1994), from which three
elements are seen to be need for gross negligent was that the victims were partied to an illegal act. In
manslaughter. the civil law of negligence this would have meant
1. A duty of case towards the victim must exist.…read more

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The jury had to decide whether, principles of negligence applied in deciding whether
in regards to the risk of death involved, the conduct the defendant had broken the duty of care owed to
of the defendant was so bad in all the the defendant. This appears to say the tests for civil
circumstances as to amount, in their judgment, to a negligence are the same as criminal that law. Yet
criminal act/omission.…read more

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would protect defendants from being convicted of
manslaughter when they did not intend or foresee
any injury. In addition, more serious forms of
manslaughter could be classed as Second Degree
Murder. These are killings where the defendant
intended to cause injury or fear or risk of injury and
was aware that his conduct involved a serious risk
of causing death.…read more

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The person was capable of appreciating
that risk at the time; and
- Their conduct falls far below what can
reasonably be expected of them in the
This largely restates the existing law. It makes it
clear that there must be a risk of death; a serious
injury is not sufficient. However, the Law
Commission approved to keeping the rule that gross
negligence manslaughter can be committed even
when the defendant was unaware that their conduct
might cause death.…read more


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