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Critically consider whether the law governing involuntary manslaughter is in a satisfactory state.

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Introduction

Critically consider whether the law governing involuntary manslaughter is in a satisfactory state. Currently involuntary manslaughter involves a variety of situations where death has occurred as a result of the conduct of the accused and where it has been deemed appropriate to find the accused criminally responsible for that death. The accused will not have intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. The maximum sentence for the offence is life imprisonment and the judge has discretion in handing out the appropriate type and length of sentence up to that maximum. It is unknown for a non-custodial sentence to be given for an involuntary manslaughter conviction. There have been many proposals for the reform of involuntary manslaughter through legislation, most recently in relation to so called corporate manslaughter. The debate has been given fresh impetus following the disastrous train crash at Ladbroke Grove, just outside Paddington Station in 1999. There are three types of involuntary manslaughter. D will be convicted of constructive manslaughter if he kills by committing an act that is both 'unlawful' and 'dangerous.' It is called constructive manslaughter because the liability for death is built or 'constructed' from the unlawful and dangerous act from which the death has flowed even though the risk of death may never have been contemplated by the accused. ...read more.

Middle

is inappropriate to convict a defendant for an offence of homicide where the most that can be said is that he or she ought to have realised that there was a risk of some albeit not serious harm to another resulting from his or her commission of an unlawful act.' In Watts (1998), the COA decided that, whenever the manslaughter by gross negligence is raised then the judge must direct the jury in accordance with the principles established in Adomako. Adomako firmly re-established gross negligence as the correct test. In 1994 the Law Commission published a consultation paper provisionally recommending the abolition of constructive manslaughter on the basis that it was 'inappropriate to convict a defendant for an offence of homicide where the most that can some, albeit not serious harm, to another resulting from his or her report which recommended : * The abolition of involuntary manslaughter altogether * Its replacement by two new offences of 'reckless killing' and 'killing by gross carelessness.' The biggest problem identified for maintaining involuntary manslaughter was considered to be the width of situations it can cover, which presents judges with significant problems, particularly when determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed in any given case. The new offences were defined in a draft bill attached to the report as follows. ...read more.

Conclusion

The terms of the new offence in the 2000 document are that : * A person by his or her conduct causes the death of another. * He or she intended to or was reckless as to whether some injury was caused. * The conduct causing or intended to cause, the injury constitutes an offence. These conditions are concise and the law governing involuntary manslaughter is in a reasonable state, with there being clear boundaries where there is liability as in breaches of duty or gross negligence and where there is no relationship at all as concluded in R V Khan and Khan. There are clear and logical tests, such as the Church Test (1965) where it must be recognised that the danger of the action would have been recognised by a 'sober and reasonable person' that help judges reach satisfactory conclusions and direct juries correctly. The Government has stated that it is rational for a person 'to accept the consequences of his act, even if the final consequences are unforeseeable.' This is satisfactory as it would be ridiculous to allow people to escape the sentence of manslaughter just because they did not foresee the risk of death, as stated before ignorance is no defence. Thus the law governing involuntary manslaughter, in my critical opinion is in a satisfactory state. Kate Allen ...read more.

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