Involuntary Manslaugther!a2 l

Mens Rea

Mens rea for murder is not present

D need not realise the risk of causing some harm. As long as the reasonable man in his position would have so realised

DPP v Newbury and Jones [1976] – killed train driver.

If there is no mens rea for the unlawful act the defendant will not be liable R v Lamb (1967) – Russian roulette.


Need not realise it is dangerous

D must have the mens rea for the unlawful act e.g. intention or recklessness etc., but it is not necessary for the defendant to realise that the act is unlawful or dangerous Newbury and Jones (1977), Attorney-General's reference (No 2 of 1999) (2000) – Southall Rail crash.



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  • Created on: 06-02-11 20:22

Actus reus

It must be shown

  1. that the accused had committed an unlawful act;

  2. that the act was a substantial cause of death;

  3. that the accused intended to commit the act as distinct from intending its consequence.

  4. that the act was dangerous in the sense that a sober and reasonable person would inevitably recognise that it carried some risk of harm;

R v Mitchell [1983] CA


Must be a criminal act


R v Lamb [1967] - Russian roulette
R v Arobieke [1988] – killed on railway line
The consent of the victim will not prevent an act from being unlawful. R v Cato [1976] – friends injecting heroin.


Unlawful act

The death must be caused by an unlawful act. A civil wrong is not enough Franklin (1883) – box off pier.


Must be an act, not an omission

There must be an act: an omission cannot not create liability.
Lowe (1973) – neglected child.


Act can be aimed at property – Goodfellow 1986)

The act need not be aimed at a person; it can be aimed at property, provided it is 'such that all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject another person to, at least, the risk of some harm' Goodfellow (1986) – burnt down house.

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The objective test

The unlawful act must be dangerous - an objective test

It must be 'such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting there from, albeit not serious harm' Church (1966) – threw girl in river.


Type of harm which has to be reasonably foreseeable


R v Larkin [1943] – cut woman’s throat ‘accidentally’ at party

R v Church [1966]

The jury must be directed to consider the possibility of physical harm as opposed to merely emotional harm R v Dawson (1985) - robbed petrol attendant.


Fear and apprehension are not enough

The risk of harm refers to physical harm; fear and apprehension are not sufficient, even if they cause the victim to have a heart attack Dawson (1985).


Frailty is sufficient

However, where a reasonable person would be aware of the victim’s frailty and the risk of physical harm to him, then the defendant will be liable Watson (1989) - burglary.


How much knowledge does one attribute to the bystander?

R v Watson [1989] the sober and reasonable bystander was to be endowed with whatever knowledge the defendant possessed.


R v Ball [1989] - unknown live round in gun - the sober and reasonable bystander could not be endowed with any mistaken belief held by the defendant.


Supplying drugs

When a defendant supplies drugs to a drug user who then takes the drug and dies, what is the liability of the drug supplier.


The courts have been presented with a number of different examples where the supplier has behaved irresponsibly and where he has not. 


The issue is one of causation, does supplying the drugs cause death.  Provided the supplier does not help the user take the drugs it would appear not.


The issue appears to have been finally resolved by the House of Lords in R v Kennedy [2007], they decided that where the deceased was a fully informed and responsible adult, it was never appropriate to find guilty of manslaughter a person who had been involved in the supply to the deceased of a Class A controlled drug, which had then been freely and voluntarily self-administered by the deceased, and the administration of the drug had caused his death.


Difference between UADA and gross negligence

This applies to unlawful act manslaughter and not gross negligence manslaughter.


It is possible, in some circumstances, for a drug supplier to be guilty of gross negligence manslaughter. In Khan [1993] CA it was held to be gross negligence not to call an ambulance, but the point about the supply of drugs not causing death remains the same.


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