Year and a day rule

For a defendant to be liable for a homicide offence, the victim had to die within 366 days of the last act (or omission) done to the victim.

For centuries in order for a defendant to be liable for a homicide offence, the victim had to die within 366 days of the last act (or omission) done to the victim by the defendant. 

Over the years this rule had attracted considerable criticism.  Advances in medical science i.e. life support technology meant that victims can be kept alive for much longer than a year and a day, even though the original injuries remain the actual cause of death.

The Law Reform (Year and a day rule) Act 1996 has therefore abolished the old common law rule.  Recently one of the first cases of its kind – Keith Stephenson was convicted in this country of manslaughter following this change in the law.

Originally he had been given 100 hours community service after bludgeoning his victim over the head with a piece of wood in 2002.  His victim developed epilepsy from the attack and died from a fit 18 months later.  This new legislation allowed Stephenson to be charged with manslaughter.

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