The law defines murder as where one person, of sound mind, unlawfully kills another with the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. This crime is considered to be the most serious form of homicide, as well as the most serious crime in English law.
There are a range of defences that can be used to defend a person who has been accused of murder, and may reduce the charge to manslaughter. These include, but are not limited to:
- Self defence – when the defendant has used reasonable force to protect themselves against another person, and the victim has been killed as a result.
- Diminished responsibility – the defendant did mean to kill the victim, because of a mental incapacity or temporary insanity.
- Loss of control – this is not a general defence, and applies only for murder cases.
The Actus Reus and Mens Rea of Murder
In the eyes of the law, for a person to have committed a murder, they must meet the following criteria. This is known as the Actus Reus of murder.
The victim of the person must have been a ‘person in being’ at the time of their death. This means that the person has been unlawfully killed, and that they are not in utero. The victim must also have actually died. If they are still alive, even gravely injured, the charge is Attempted Murder. The victim’s death must have been directly caused by the act (or failure to act) of the defendant.
The defendant must also have the intention to kill, or cause serious injury. This is known as the Mens Rea of murder.
The Punishment for Murder
The law in England and Wales dictates that the mandatory sentence for murder is life imprisonment.
During the trial, it is up to the jury to decide whether, beyond reasonable doubt, the alleged committed the act of murder. It’s then up to the judge to set a minimum amount of time the defendant has to serve before they are eligible for release. However, this is not the set time – the amount of time spent in prison depends on a variety of factors, including behaviour while incarcerated.
How DPP Law can help
If you’re suspected of murder, DPP Law can help. Our dedicated team of lawyers are on hand to provide you with professional legal advice and representation, and will put together a reliable defence to obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today for a free, confidential discussion about your case.