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Involuntary Manslaughter Essay

1133 words - 5 pages

Involuntary Manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is an unlawful killing where the defendant
does not have the intention to kill or cause GBH. The lack of
intention is what distinguishes involuntary manslaughter from murder.
There are two ways of committing involuntary manslaughter. These are
unlawful act manslaughter and Gross negligence manslaughter. The
maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is life imprisonment,
thus giving the judge discretion to impose any sentence, which is
suitable for the particular circumstances of the offence. In some
cases, the judge may even pass a non-custodial sentence.

Unlawful act manslaughter

Unlawful act manslaughter is also known as constructive manslaughter
because the liability for the death is built up or constructed from
the facts that the defendant has done a dangerous unlawful act, which
caused the death. This makes the defendant liable, even though he did
not realise that death or injury might occur. The actus reus of
unlawful act manslaughter are:

- The defendant must do an unlawful act

- The act must be dangerous on an objective test

- The act must cause death

- The act was substantial cause of death

The death must be caused by an unlawful act, which must be a criminal
offence. A civil wrong is not enough, FRANKLIN (1883). There must be
an act: an omission cannot not create liability for unlawful act
manslaughter, LOWE (1973). In many cases, the unlawful act will be
some kind of assault, but any criminal offence can form the unlawful
act, provided it involves and act which is dangerous in the sense that
it is likely to cause some injury. The unlawful act must be dangerous
on an objective test. From the case of CHURCH (1966), this is an
objective test – would a sober and reasonable person realise the risk
of some harm? The risk need only be of some harm – not of serious
harm, LARKIN (1943). An act aimed at property can still be such that a
sober and reasonable person would realise the risk of some harm,
GOODFELLOW (1986). There must be a risk of physical harm; mere fear is
not enough, DAWSON (1985). The unlawful act must cause the death. The
normal rules of causation apply; the act must be the physical and
legal cause of death. An intervening act such as the victim
self-injecting a drug breaks the chain of causation, DALBY (1982).
However, where the defendant helps with the injection, the link is
established, ROGERS (2003).

It is vital to understand that the mens rea for involuntary
manslaughter concerns the initial crime itself, and can be intention
or recklessness. The defendant must have the mens rea for the unlawful
act but it is not necessary for the defendant to realise that the act
is unlawful or dangerous. Although most cases involve some form of
assault that requires intention or...

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