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Lecture 7 fatal offences

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  • 1. Lecture 7 Fatal Offences Foundation Law 2013/14
  • 2. Recap-Lecture 6: Elements of a crime • Elements of a crime: actus reus & mens rea • Unless the offence is one of strict liability, BOTH the actus reus and the mens rea of the offence MUST be present to hold the defendant guilty • What is a strict liability offence? • An offence whereby the actus reus is enough to hold the defendant guilty. There is no need to prove the mens rea (e.g., drink driving.) • Winzar v Chief Constable for Kent (1983) & Harrow Borough Council v Shah (1999) • Every offence in criminal law has its own AR/MR
  • 3. Recap-Lecture 6: Elements of a crime • Actus Reus: physical element of a crime…the guilty act • The actus reus of an offence can also be an omission • An omission is the failure to do something (e.g., failure to wear a seatbelt.) • There must also be a causal link between the D’s act/omission and the consequences. This is known as the chain of causation ( R v Smith; R v Cheshire & R v Jordan)
  • 4. Recap-Lecture 6: Elements of a crime • Mens Rea: the mental element of a crime…the guilty mind • There are different degrees of mens rea for different crimes but the main ones are specific intention and recklessness • Specific intention: this is whereby the D has specific or direct intention to achieve the desired consequences (e.g., to kill). However, this degree of intent also extends to situations whereby the consequences were foreseeable (e.g., as Martins describes, a situation whereby a factory owner starts a fire knowing that there are people in the factory.) • Recklessness: this involves the D taking a risk
  • 5. Lecture 7-Fatal Offences Learning Outcomes:  Explain what is meant by a fatal offence Show knowledge & understanding of the common law crime of murder Explain the difference between murder and manslaughter Identify some of the legal problems surrounding the law on murder and manslaughter Show knowledge & understanding of the two forms of manslaughter Apply legal principles to given facts and demonstrate criticality & analysis when answering fact based questions; and Analyse case law and be able to apply case law in a persuasive manner to hypothetical case studies.
  • 6. What is a fatal offence? • When we hear of fatality, this usually involves the death of the victim • A fatal offence is one that falls under the category of an offence against the person and involves the killing of the victim • The term “homicide” also describe offences which result in the death/killing of the victim • There are two main fatal offences: murder & manslaughter • As shall be examined in the lecture, although both these offences involve the killing of the victim, the key difference between murder & manslaughter is in the mens rea (intention) of the offence
  • 7. Murder • Murder is a common law crime, which means that murder is not defined by a specific Act of Parliament and the definition and acts of murder come from case law • Murder is punishable by life imprisonment • Murder is defined as “unlawful killing with malice aforethought” • The actus reus of murder is the “unlawful killing” • The mens rea of murder is “malice aforethought” Lets examine each of these elements in more detail………
  • 8. The Actus Reus of Murder • The actus reus of murder is “malice aforethought” • Each of the following elements of the actus reus must be proven: 1. The killing must be unlawful; 2. The defendant’s act/omission must have caused the death; and 3. The victim must be a living human being. Lets examine these elements in more detail………..
  • 9. 1. The killing must be unlawful • This basically means that there should not be any legal justification for the killing • For example, if the victim’s death was caused whilst acting in self defence or during war fare, then it will not be considered unlawful
  • 10. 2. The D’s act/omission must have caused the death • In the previous lecture we looked at causation and the importance of there being a causal link (“chain of causation”) between the D’s act/omission and consequences • The rule is, that death of the victim must be caused by the act/omission of the defendant
  • 11. • R v White ( 1910): the D poisoned his mother’s drink with intention to kill her (he had the mens rea of murder) . However, before she drank the drink she suffered from a heart attack. The D was only found guilty of attempted murder as the factual cause of death was not the poison but the heart attack • Furthermore, where there is a break in the chain of causation because of an intervening act, the defendant will not be guilty • R v Jordan (1956): the D was found not guilty of murder, as the actions of the doctors were held to be an intervening act which caused the death and broke the chain of causation. (Compare with R v Smith (1959), where the Court of Appeal held that the D’s stabbing was the cause of death and he was held to be guilty of murder.)
  • 12. 3. The victim must be a living human being • The D must kill a living human being • This rule also extents to animals, who are in the eyes of the law, seen as property and not “living beings” • R v Poulton (1832), a person only becomes a person “in being” once they have been born alive and have been detached from the mother’s womb • Thus, killing a foetus is not murder (AG-Reference (No 3 of 1994) (1998)) • However, causing injuries to an unborn child so that after it is born it then dies of those injuries could be murder/manslaughter
  • 13. The Mens Rea of Murder • The mens rea of murder is “malice aforethought” • Murder is a specific intent crime • Under the Homicide Actr (1957), intention can be express or implied • Express malice: is the intention to kill • Implied malice: is the intention to cause grievous bodily harm (“GHB”)
  • 14. Implied malice- intention to cause GBH • R v Vickers (1957): if the D has the intention to cause GBH and subsequently, as a result of GBH the victim dies, this would be held sufficient to hold the D guilty of murder • The D would be charged with GBH causing death • R v Cunningham ( 1982): the House of Lords confirmed the decision in R v Vickers as the “correct statement of law” • Where death is caused by GBH, this is an example of the D having oblique intention . I.e.. that although the D did not have the specific intention to cause death nonetheless his actions were almost certain to cause death
  • 15. Intention- foresight of consequences • R v Moloney ( 1985): the House of Lords held that the foreseeability of consequences was NOT the same as intention but only evidence from which intention may be proved • R v Woollin (1998)
  • 16. Manslaughter • Manslaughter is “unlawful killing without malice aforethought” • This is whereby the D has the actus reus of the murder (“unlawful killing”) but not the mens rea of murder (“malice aforethought”- specific intention to kill or cause GBH) • There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary manslaughter & involuntary manslaughter • Unlike murder, manslaughter does not carry the mandatory life imprisonment sentence Lets examine the two types of manslaughter……..
  • 17. Voluntary Manslaughter • Voluntary manslaughter is a partial defence to murder • This is whereby the D has still committed the actus reus and mens rea of murder but has a legal justification, which will reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter • Where the defendant has a full defence (for example, acting in self defence), then they will be found not guilty of murder • The two partial defences are diminished responsibility and loss of control Lets examine these two partial defences………
  • 18. 1. Loss of control • The partial defence of loss of control is contained in Section 54 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and replaces the old defence of provocation ( R v Ahluwalia) • Under the Act, a D who intends to kill will not be guilty of murder if: 1. The act (or omission) which causes death resulted from a loss of self control; 2. The loss of self control must have resulted from a “qualifying trigger”; and 3. A reasonable person of the D’s sex and age would have reacted in the same way has the D. Lets examine each of these elements in more detail…….
  • 19. Loss of self control • This is a question of fact decided by the jury • A mere loss of temper will not suffice • The loss of self control does not have to be sudden and can be built up over time ( R v Ahluwalia- law on provocation)
  • 20. Qualifying Trigger • The loss of self control must have resulted from a “qualifying trigger”; trigger is what caused the D to lose control • There are only two accepted qualifying triggers: 1. A fear of serious violence: whereby the D loses his self control and kills the victim as he believes that the victim is going to cause him or another person, serious harm; and 2. A feeling of being badly treated; this is whereby the D loses his/her self control and kills the victim as s/he had been badly treated by the victim
  • 21. The reasonable man test • The jury must conclude that a reasonable person of the D’s sex and age might have reacted in the same way as the D did • Thus, if a reasonable person of the same age and sex of the D would have also lost his/her self control in the circumstances, then the D will not be guilty of murder but of voluntary manslaughter
  • 22. 2. Diminished Responsibility • The second type of partial defence is diminished responsibility • This defence is governed by Section 2 of the Homicide Act 1957 and amended by section 52 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 • It provides that a D who intends to kill will not be guilty of murder but of voluntary manslaughter if: 1. At the time of the killing, the D was suffering from an abnormality of mind ( R v Byrne (1960)); 2. The abnormality of mind resulted from a medically recognised condition (e.g., depression); and 3. The abnormality of mind prevented the D from either a. Understanding what s/he is doing; b. Making rational thought; or c. Excising self control
  • 23. Involuntary Manslaughter • Involuntary manslaughter is whereby the D did not have the mens rea (specific intention) of murder but his act/omission causes the victim’s death • There are two types of involuntary manslaughter: unlawful act manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter Lets examine the each type of involuntary manslaughter in detail…….
  • 24. 1. Unlawful act manslaughter • A D will be convicted of unlawful act manslaughter if: 1. He intentionally does a criminal act; - R v Mitchell (1983) - DPP v Newbury & Jones (1976) 2. The criminal act causes people to be in danger ; and 3. The criminal act causes the death of the victim
  • 25. 2. Gross negligence manslaughter • A D will be guilty of gross negligence manslaughter if: 1. S/he breaches his duty of care; and 2. The breach of duty causes death • R v Adomako (1995) • R v Bateman (1925): “Gross negligence” was defined as behaviour which shows “such disregard for the life and safety of others”
  • 26. Seminar 6 Preps. Hand Out: • List of cases • Reading List: Jacqueline Martin, “GCSE Law”, 5th edition, Chapter 22- Criminal Law: Fatal Offences • Preparatory Questions • Quiz 2: the English courts