Unlawful Act Manslaughter

brief summary on Unlawful Act Manslaughter 

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  • Created on: 05-01-11 13:53
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For unlawful act manslaughter there must be a murder. Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being
under the Queen's Peace without malice aforethought. This definition is derived from Sir Edward
Coke. An unlawful killing is a killing that takes place outside of war time and causes a death of
another. A human being is anything that can exist independently of its mother. (AG Ref No2. 1993).
The Queen's peace is when the country is not at war. It must be proven that D has committed an initial
criminal act which has resulted in the death of V. In Church, the D committed either a battery or ABH,
that caused the death of V. D's original act must be a crime and not a tort like in Franklin.
It must also be proven that D's initial crime is dangerous. In Church it as decided that this test would
be objective. This was updated and added to further in Dawson and Watson. Therefore the question
to ask to establish whether D's initial crime is dangerous is "would a sober and reasonable person
(Church), with the knowledge of D at the time (Dawson), taking into account any obvious
vulnerabilities of V (Watson), recognise that the act could result in some harm occurring to V?". If D
makes a mistake about the risk of harm occurring to V from his actions, the courts will only accept this
mistake if it is reasonable. In Ball, D having blank and live ammunition in the same pocket was not a
reasonable mistake to make.
D's initial crime must be done through a positive act. In Lowe, it was decided that an omission was not
sufficient enough. It must also be proven that there was a causal link between D's initial crime and the
death of V. D's initial crime does not have to be aimed at the victim, or even a person. In Mitchell,
transferred malice was applied to find the D guilty of unlawful act manslaughter. In Goodfellow, the
initial crime was aimed at his own house.
The mens rea of unlawful act manslaughter is the mens rea of D's initial crime. D must have the mens
rea for his initial crime otherwise he cannot be found guilty of unlawful act manslaughter, like in Lamb,
where D did not have mens rea for assault or battery.


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