The difference between a manslaughter charge and a murder charge is based on various levels of something called ‘mens rea’, Latin for ‘guilty mind’. The charge of murder generally assumes that there was intention to kill.
There are a number of elements to the crime of manslaughter including:
- An act was provoked immediately before the act that caused the death took place, this is sometimes referred to as a “sudden loss of control”.
- That the person that caused the death of the victim had not done so intently but recklessly, for example.
- An individual has suffered diminished responsibility due to a mental illness, in these types of cases, complex psychiatric evidence is required.
There are two types of manslaughter – voluntary and involuntary – depending on the case for mens rea.
A charge of voluntary manslaughter might occur if the defendant has killed with an intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm – the aforementioned mens rea. However, a partial defence can reduce murder to a manslaughter charge.
Two changes in law affected the charge of manslaughter. The Homicide Act 1957 introduced two defences that could be used in court, diminished responsibility and suicide pact. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 also created the defence of ‘sudden loss of control’.
This is when the accused did not intend to kill, but caused it through recklessness or criminal negligence. An example of this would be two people in a physical fight, where one is pushed to the floor sustaining a fatal injury to their skull.
In this example, the intent to kill wasn’t there, and could be argued that the push was initially in self-defence. Therefore the mens rea required for murder isn’t applicable, as the act was not the intention to kill.
Death by dangerous driving is another common charge that falls under involuntary manslaughter.
How DPP Law can help
If manslaughter allegations have been made against you or your business, the lawyers at DPP Law are available to provide you with legal defence and expertise to get the best outcome for your case. Contact us today for further help with your situation.