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  • Coke defined murder as the unlawful killing of any reasonable creature (any human being) under the King's peace, with malice aforethought.
  • Therefore, the actus reus of murder is the unlawful killing of a human being. This means that in cases of euthenasia, where the D may have good moral reasoning, administering lethal doses of drugs is still unlawful killing. As was the case in R v Bodkin Adams where a doctor did exactly this. He was acquitted of murder, however, as the court held that a doctor is entitled to relieve pain and suffering, even where this may shorten life.
  • R v Bodkin Adams would have been more satisfactory if the defence of necessity had been raised - as in Re A whereby a doctor was charged with murder as a result of seperating conjoined twins at the cost of one of them dying, but was not punished as the defence of necessity was permitted. 
  • The mens rea is malice aforethought. This means that the person must have intended/obliquely intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. There is no requirement that the killing be premeditated.
  • The punishment for murder is a mandatory life sentence (in the absence of mitigating factors.)
  • A person can only be guilty of attempted murder if they had specific intent to kill. Intending to cause GBH does not satisfy this.
  • R v Vickers established that intending to cause GBH could satisfy the mens rea for murder. In this case, the D was interrupted whilst conducting theft by an elderly lady. He struck her numerous times on the head and she died.
  • Smith v DPP confirmed the precedent established in Vickers because the House of Lords held that intending to inflict GBH did satisfy the mens rea for murder. However, they added that GBH should refer to gravely serious, not merely


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