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Involuntary Manslaughter - In struggling to define the boundaries of involuntary manslaughter the courts have encountered considerable difficulties and produced a muddle - Discuss whether this criticism is justified

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Suliman The Merciful Involuntary Manslaughter - Homework { In struggling to define the boundaries of involuntary manslaughter the courts have encountered considerable difficulties and produced a muddle } Discuss whether this criticism is justified. Involuntary manslaughter comprises the commission of the actus reus of homicide without malice aforethought, which is required for specific intent offences like murder. There are now, since R v Adomako [1994], two clearly recognised kinds of involuntary manslaughter. These are unlawful act manslaughter (constructive manslaughter) and gross negligence manslaughter also sometimes referred to as 'reckless' manslaughter. Unlawful act manslaughter arises where the defendant has first committed an unlawful act, and as a result, someone dies (causation in fact and in law is required). In addition, the unlawful act must be dangerous on an objective test; i.e. it must be 'such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting therefrom, albeit not serious harm' (established by the Court of Appeal in Church (1996)). ...read more.


However, if the victim were obviously frail to a normal prudent person and so was the risk of physical harm to him, then the conviction of involuntary manslaughter would be upheld. This was the case with Watson [1989]. Furthermore, it must be proved that the defendant had the mens rea for the unlawful act, but it is not necessary for the defendant to realise that the act is unlawful or dangerous (Newbury and Jones (1977)). The other main type of involuntary manslaughter is gross negligence manslaughter. This is manslaughter caused by such disregard for life and safety of others (beyond mere tortious negligence) that it warrants punishment by the criminal law. This is also, where a defendant owes the victim a duty of care and commits a lawful act in a very negligent way or simply fails to act. In the case of Adomako [1994], the defendant (an anaesthetist) failed to notice and remedy a defect in the breathing apparatus despite the sounding of an alarm that should have notified him of the problem. ...read more.


It is probable that reckless manslaughter only exists in motor manslaughter cases established in Adomako. It is true that the courts have encountered considerable difficulties in defining the boundaries of involuntary manslaughter, but since Adomako, it seems that the courts have finally clarified its position on involuntary manslaughter and is therefore, no longer seen to have produced a muddle. However, many critics often voice the criticism that the objective rule in unlawful act manslaughter is unfair, as it does not reflect the moral culpability of the defendant as he is compared to a normal prudent person, as opposed to someone with similar characteristics. In addition, in some cases such as Adomako (a trained professional anaesthetist), comparing him to a normal prudent person in the objective test is unacceptable. A fairer rule would be to compare the defendant with someone, of similar character, for example Adomako could be compared with another trained anaesthetist of a similar sex, age, expertise, and experience or whatever characteristics which might be relevant or appropriate to the case. ...read more.

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