Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.

Involuntary Manslaughter can be distinguished from voluntary manslaughter by the absence of intention to kill or cause GBH.

Involuntary manslaughter can be divided into three categories;

Unlawful Act/Constructive Manslaughter.

  • The death must be caused by an unlawful act, it is not enough to be a civil wrong (Franklin (1883))
  • The unlawful act must be dangerous on an objective test (Church (1966))
  • There must be an act - an omission can not create liability (Lowe (1973))
  • Difficult decisions have been made surrounding the deaths of a human being from the injection of a drug.  Currently the law appears to be that:
  1. If the defendant has supplied the drug but does nothing towards administering the drug, he has not caused the death (Dalby (1982))
  2. If the defendant helps in any way in administering the drug and this act is the cause of death, he is guilty of manslaughter (Rogers (2003))
  3. If the defendant prepares the injection but the victim has the syringe and injects himself with the lethal dose, the defendant is guilty of unlawful act manslaughter as he has committed the unlawful act of administering a noxious substance under Sec 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861: (Kennedy v R (2005)).

  • The act can be aimed at property (Goodfellow (1986))

  • The risk of harm must be a physical harm it is not enough for there to be fear or concern even if this leads the victim to have a heart attack (Dawson (1985)). Should a defendant know of the victim's weakness and the risk he could be in, then the defendant is liable (Watson (1989))

  • There must be proof that the defendant had the mens rea for the unlawful act, not necessarily that he realised that the act was unlawful (Newbury and Jones (1977)), Attorney General's Reference No.2 CA of 1999.(2000).

Gross negligence manslaughter/medical manslaughter.

  • The death occurs when the defendant, who owes a duty of care, does a lawful act or omission in a negligent way. Duty of care could be:
  1. As a doctor to his patient (R v Adomako (1994))

  2. The duty of maintenance of a building or property (Singh, R v (1999))

  3. The ownership of a ship and its crew (Litchfield, R v (1997))

  4. A lorry driver knowingly transporting illegal immigrants (Wacker, R v (2002))

Reckless Manslaughter

  • Before (R v Adomako (1994)) manslaughter could be said to be committed by recklessness based on an objective standard.
  • In (R v Adomako (1994)) it was stated that this was not the correct test for manslaughter even if the word 'reckless' was appropriate.
  • Reckless manslaughter could now be said to only exist in 'motor' manslaughter cases.

At this point it might be useful to mention corporate manslaughter. Since the introduction of The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 in April 2008, there have been an ever increasing number of prosecutions. The introduction of this Act means that companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a consequence of failing to carry out their responsibilities correctly.  If there is a gross breach of duty of care leading to a fatality and a company can be found to have failed in managing health and safety procedures they can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter.  


Murder & Manslaughter - CPS Guidance

Involuntary Manslaughter

Will the new Corporate Homicide Act save lives? | Neil Rose | Law ...



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