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  • 1. ‘’The law relating to involuntary manslaughter continues to be muddled and unjust. Reformof this type of manslaughter is overdue’’. Assess the accuracy of this statement.The 17th century definition of murder by Lord Coke states that murder is the ‘’unlawfulkilling of a human in being, under the Queens peace in any country of the realm with maliceaforethought expressed or implied.’’ But in involuntary manslaughter the ‘maliceaforethought’ isn’t present so the mens rea for murder isn’t there. But there are a numberof types of manslaughter that a defendant can be found guilty of.The first type of involuntary manslaughter is Gross Negligent Manslaughter. Within this aperson must have a duty of care which is either contractual, relationship, assumed or dutyin a dangerous situation. For this to be breached, duty of care must be diminished. In thecase of Stone and Dobinson there was a relationship duty of care. A man and his wife lettheir ill aunt live with them. She died of starvation and Stone was found guilty of not gettingmedical help which could have saved her life. This could also be assumed because in takingher into their home she was their responsibility. In Murjuru a woman left her baby in thecare of her knowingly abusive partner. She too was found guilty as she had a duty of care tolook after her child. Likewise in Gibbins and Proctor, it was the parents responsibility to feedand care for their child. They were found guilty. In all these cases the lack of care was sogross to be criminal as death wouldn’t have occurred if the right care had been taken. This isjust because in situations where the victims were so young or ill to look after themselves asa relative, they should have taken better care, not just legally but also morally. A contractualduty of care such as in Adamoko is where a people are paid like doctors and teachers and itis their responsibility to look after people. Like in Pittwood the D was in charge of closing thegates on a level crossing. He failed to carry out the duty he was paid for and death occurred.In a dangerous situation such as Wacker he had a duty of care to look after the illegalimmigrants in his van. By closing the air vent he was guilty as he behaved dangeously. Thiswas confirmed in Wiloughby. This in itself is muddled as there are so many categories inwhich involuntary manslaughter fit into. This is confusing for anyone especially a jury. Ontop of the different types of care, it also has to be established whether the duty of care wasbreached and was it so bad as to be criminal. This can also lead to being unjust as it can bedebated as for assumed duty of care for instance, whether you should be liable for thelooking after another even though it isn’t really morally your duty to.The next type of involuntary manslaughter is Unlawful Act. Here, the defendant is guilty ifhe kills by doing an act which is unlawful and dangerous but he didn’t have the mens rea tokill or harm. In Goodfellow, D was in rent arrears so set fire to his house to make it look likeit had been hit with a petrol bomb. But the fire got out of control and 3 people died. He wasfound guilty and the COA upheld conviction even though the D had not meant to cause thedeaths. This may be thought to be not just. He never meant to kill anyone and never had themens rea to even harm. What he did was dangerous but he obviously was reckless in hisactions of not seeing that danger and death could occur. Other cases where the D did adangerous unlawful act were Newbury and Jones, Church and Larkin. In Lamb two men oflow intelligence were playing with a gun not understanding how the mechanism worked.Death occurred after D aimed the gun at the other but there had been no assault, no crimeso the D was found not guilty. This contradicts with Goodfellow resulting in the law onmanslaughter seeming to be muddled and confusing. Here the D was found guilty even
  • 2. though he never meant to kill. But in Lamb the D never meant to kill either and was foundnot guilty. They both committed a dangerous act but got different verdicts. There is nojustice in this as there is no consistency. Reform may be needed in order to get people thejustice they deserve.Corporate manslaughter is where liability is found within a corporation. In P&O Ferries thecase collapsed as it was too difficult to establish where the responsibility laid and prove thatthey had taken inadequate safety precautions. Many problems arise when it needs to bedecided who the corporate mind is. But in R v Kite it was easy to find out who wasresponsible as the company was so small. In Tesco v Natrass the company was found guiltyas a whole over one manager’s failure to place price tags on items. This is unjust because acompany shouldnt be found liable because one person was negligent and failed to do theirjob. Again this can cause confusion as to where the responsibility came from. The reform ofthis act would be beneficial because it would lead to companies saving money and theirreputation. It would be fair to punish the person responsible rather the company as awhole.The final type of involuntary manslaughter is subjective reckless. Here, the D sees a risk andtakes it knowing that death could occur. This was thought to have been incorporated intothe other types of manslaughter but in Lidar this was proved wrong. Here the D drove hiscar with the victim leaning in through the car window. A reasonable person would haveconsidered this dangerous and even the D must have seen the risk of death. Even thoughthe verdict was just, it is muddling for a jury. Whether someone is reasonable depends ontheir individual personality.In conclusion I think that the law relating to involuntary manslaughter is muddled but Iwould say it is unjust. In 2005, the Law Commission decided that reckless manslaughtershould be called 2nd degree murder and there should be 2 types of involuntary manslaughter. Thefirst is the unlawful killing where the D foresees the risk and takes it. The second is that the D’sactions fall below the standards of a reasonable man and this leads to death. Death should beobvious in the D’s position. However this isn’t much different from the current law on involuntarymanslaughter and changing it again would lead to even more confusion. To me, this law is perfectlyadequate.