How To Reduce A Murder Charge To Manslaughter
What is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?
The main difference between cases of murder and cases of manslaughter is the intent behind the act. The suspect’s purpose does not need to have been to kill the victim; a person can be charged with murder if they ended a person’s life while planning to cause them anything between grievous bodily harm and death.
In order for a person to be found guilty of murder in a UK court, their actions first need to be shown to fulfil the relevant Actus Reus and Mens Rea. The term “Actus Reus” refers to the criteria required for a person to be considered a victim of murder. To meet this criteria, the victim must have been unlawfully killed (not in self-defence, accidentally or as a result of a police officer legally using lethal force, for example).
They must also have been a “person in being” at the time – not, for example, a foetus in the womb. At the time a person is charged with murder, their victim needs to have died as a direct result of actions purposefully taken by the defendant.
The “Mens Rea” is a phrase that roughly translates to motivation or intention – the person accused of murder must be proven to have had a motive to kill the victim.
If it is possible to argue that any element of these criteria are missing, it is possible for a murder charge to be changed to one of manslaughter – another, slightly lesser form of homicide.
Manslaughter can be argued if the defence can prove that their client was provoked into performing the act in a sudden loss of control, or that there is a case for diminished responsibility – where it can be proved that the defendant was suffering from a mental illness or a significantly altered state of mind.
Manslaughter can also be argued if the defendant was a party that failed to go through with the act of suicide as part of a pact with the victim, who succeeded, or that the death was caused without intent – for example, as the result of reckless behaviour on the part of the defendant. An example of this is the recent case involving the death of 17 year old Katrina Makunova, which saw her boyfriend, Oluwaseyi Dada, 21 convicted of her manslaughter.
During a physical altercation, Makunova fell and landed on her handbag in which she was carrying a knife – the blade of which went through the wall of her handbag and pierced her chest. Her death was proven to have been unintentional.
This is an example of “involuntary manslaughter” – where the lack of mens rea could prove that the killing was not purposeful.
Murder Punishment and Sentencing
Our murder charge solicitors have experience with defending clients charged with murder. If a defendant is found guilty of murder, they will automatically be sentenced to life in prison. It is then up to the court to decide the minimum term that will need to be served, and whether or not there will be the possibility of parole.
Actual time served will depend on the defendant’s behaviour in prison, along with other factors.
Manslaughter Punishment and Sentencing
The minimum punishment for manslaughter can be a period of community service decided upon by the court. Custodial sentences can range from two to ten years, and can be suspended for up to two.
Changing a Murder Charge to Manslaughter
It is absolutely possible to change a murder charge to manslaughter. This can be achieved if you and your legal advisors are able to successfully argue that the act in question constituted a provoked killing, that the incident occurred without any intent to murder the victim on the part of the defendant, or that the defendant was suffering from diminished responsibility.
Cases in which this final argument was made always require the testimony of a medical professional who has examined the defendant. If that professional agrees that mental illness or, in some circumstances, intoxication played a part in the behaviour of the defendant, it’s highly likely that the charge may be reduced.
How DPP Law Can Assist if You’ve Been Charged with Murder
The experts at DPP Law are well aware of the potential outcomes of a murder charge. However, we are also highly capable of mounting a powerful defence with the purpose of seeing that charge reduced to one of manslaughter.
By examining all evidence and going through the case in great detail, our specialist criminal lawyers work hard to put our clients in the best position possible to see justice done and their charge changed. Remember to present us with as much evidence as you possibly can to help us make your case successfully.