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Involuntary Manslaughter Notes

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A more recent version of these Involuntary Manslaughter notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.

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Revision: Criminal



Where the jury cannot prove the MR for murder: difficult to define o

Lord Atkin in Andrews v DPP: 'based mainly, though not exclusively, on the absence of intent to kill, but with the presence of an element of 'unlawfulness'

1) Unlawful act (constructive) manslaughter; and 2) Manslaughter by gross negligence Unlawful act (constructive) manslaughter


Accused lacks the MR for murder but kills someone in the course of committing an unlawful act


DPP v Newbury and Jones: modern definition: to be guilty the prosecution must prove - 1) The D(s) intentionally (voluntarily) did an act; 2) The act was unlawful; 3) The unlawful act was dangerous; 4) The unlawful act caused the death of the victim

1) The D's act was intentional


Intentional as to the act not to the consequences which flow from it

2) The D's act was unlawful a) The unlawful act must be a criminal act o

crime not a tort (civil):R v Franklin: civil wrong cannot be used as 'an incident which is a necessary step in a criminal case'


The criminal act must be independent of the fact that it has caused deathMust prove the AR and the MR

1 Revision: Criminal

[HOMICIDE II - INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER]R v Lamb: D pointed a revolver at the victim as a practical joke: both parties believed there was no risk of the revolver firing a bullet - could not make out the MR for assault so could not be guilty of unlawful act manslaughter (did not have necessary intention)Scarlett: If the D is using reasonable force in acting in self-defence then there will be no unlawful act manslaughter (had a defence)


Can arise from any criminal offence

b) The act must be intrinsically unlawful o

Cannot be based on a lawful act which becomes unlawful because of the negligent or reckless manner in which it was performed: e.g. driving - Andrews v DPP (cannot be based on negligence)

c) There must be an act rather than an omission o

R v Lowe: Cannot be based on an omission - must be on a positive actFailure to do something whilst under a duty would correctly be charged as gross negligence manslaughter (here criminal omission to look after 9 week old daughter)

d) There is no need for the act to be aimed at the victim o

A-G's Reference (No 3 of 1994): 'all that is needed, once causation is established, is an act creating a risk to anyone'

3) The unlawful act was dangerous


R v Church: the sober and reasonable man would recognise that some harm, albeit not serious would result from the act


Objective test based on what the reasonable person would appreciate: DPP v Newbury

a) Type of harm


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