Involuntary Manslaughter

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  • Unlawful Act Manslaughter
  • Gross Negligence Manslaughter
  • Recklessness Manslaughter
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Involuntary Manslaughter
Involuntary manslaughter is where the defendant did not have the intention to kill the victim. It is broken
into three different offences.
Unlawful Act Manslaughter (UAM)
This offence is also known as constructive manslaughter ­ as D must have actively done something to contribute to the
death. This `something' can be defined as follows:
Unlawful Act + Dangerous Act = Death
This means that D's act must be an unlawful and dangerous one ­ which results in the death of the victim.
The defendant may be guilty even if he did not realise that the death or injury may occur. To this extent, there needs
be no foresight of consequences.
Elements of UAM
· D must do an unlawful act.
· That act must also be dangerous. (On an objective test)
· The act must cause the death.
· D must have the required mens rea for the unlawful act.
Actus Reus
Unlawful Act
The death must be caused by an unlawful act
Lamb (1967)
D and V were fooling around with a revolver with 2 rounds in. Unknowing to them, the cylinder turns as a
shot is fired. D pointed it at V, pulled the trigger and killed V.
The death must be caused by an UNLAWFUL ACT.
An omission is not enough
Lowe (1973)
D neglected his baby son.
An omission is not sufficient for the actus reus of UAM.
Most cases arise from an assault. But not all:
Goodfellow (1986) - Arson
D set fire to his council flat so that the council would have to rehouse him. The fire got out of control and
his wife, son and another woman died in the fire.
Newbury & Jones (1976) ­ Criminal Damage
Ds were 2 teenage boys who pushed a paving stone from a bridge onto a railway line. The stone hit a
train and killed the guard.
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Watson (1989) - Burglary
Ds threw a brick through a window of a house to gain entry. The 87-year old occupier came to see what
the disturbance was. Ds attacked V and left him injured, where he died of a heart attack moments later .
A civil wrong is not enough
Franklin (1883)
D threw a large box into the sea from the West Pier at Brighton. The box hit a swimmer who died
instantly.…read more

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However, where a reasonable person would be aware of the victim's frailty and the risk of physical harm to him/her,
then the defendant will be liable.
Watson (1989)
Ds threw a brick through a window of a house to gain entry. The 87-year old occupier came to see what
the disturbance was. Ds attacked V and left him injured, where he died of a heart attack moments later.…read more

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Mens Rea
The defendant must have mens rea for the unlawful act but it is not necessary to prove that he foresaw any harm from
him act, as previously stated.
Newbury & Jones (1976)
Ds were 2 teenage boys who pushed a paving stone from a bridge onto a railway line. The stone hit a
train and killed the guard.
D may be convicted as long as the act was dangerous and he had the mens rea for the dangerous act.…read more

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Gross Negligence Manslaughter (GNM)
This offence is completely different to UAM as it can be committed by an act or an omission. Neither of these has to
be categorised as unlawful. The leading precedent on GNM is R v. Adomako (1994).
Adomako (1994)
The defendant was an anaesthetist who failed to notice that during an operation, a tube supplying oxygen
to a patient had become disconnected. As a result, the patient (V) died.…read more

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Khan & Khan (1998)
Ds supplied heroin to a new user who collapsed after using it in their presence. They left and when they
returned, she had died.
There could be a duty of care to summon medical help in certain circumstances.
Duty of care can be extended to other areas on a case-by-case basis, but it is up to the jury.…read more

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Critical Comments
· The test is circular, as the jury is directed to convict of a crime f they think that the conduct was criminal.
· The jury must decide a question of law ­ they decide if conduct is capable of being criminal. This differs from
most offences when the judge decides the law, and the jury decides the facts.
· The `circular' test may lead to inconsistencies in verdicts, as it would depend on what different jurors think.…read more

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Reckless Manslaughter
Before Adomako (1994) it was held that manslaughter could be committed by recklessness based on an objective test.
Adomako stated that this was the wrong test for manslaughter though the word `reckless' might be appropriate.
Recklessness should have the meaning that the defendant had been indifferent to an obvious risk of injury, to have
foreseen the risk but determined to run it. This means that the test was subjective, based on Cunningham
recklessness.…read more

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