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Involuntary Manslaughter

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Rudi Harnick U6G2 Mrs Owen Unit 4 Law essay Discuss the criticisms, which may be made of the law on involuntary manslaughter (849 words). A person is guilty of involuntary manslaughter when he or she causes the death of a person through recklessness or criminal negligence. Unfortunately this area of law is not very clear because the difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter is so slight. The Mens Rea for voluntary manslaughter is malice aforethought whereas for involuntary manslaughter it is recklessness. The court sometimes finds it hard to decide whether what the defendant did was an intentional act or an accident. It has been said that the law of unlawful and dangerous manslaughter covers an extremely wide area of offences. A person whose unlawful act was relatively minor in nature will be guilty of the same crime as someone whose crime was nearly murder. So even though their wrongdoing is significantly different they will be guilty of the same crime and the same conviction will appear on their criminal records. ...read more.


In R V Dawson the circumstances of the burglary were not considered by the court to be dangerous whereas in R V Watson the court decided the circumstances were. So maybe the law does not promote consistency from this point of view. The Law commission also said that it was not fair for someone to be held responsible for a result they neither intended nor foresaw and be imprisoned for life. It has been suggested by the Law Commission that the person should be guilty of manslaughter if they intend some injury to the victim. Gross negligence manslaughter is an extremely complex area that brings civil concepts into criminal law, as the courts are reluctant to establish firm test for applying the principles. The House of Lords laid down these principles in R V Adomako in 1994. In this case the defendant failed to supply the right amount of oxygen when treating a person causing their death. ...read more.


However the judge determines it and some may find it unfair that this is the case in a criminal law trial. In some cases though there have been some surprising outcomes in cases because the jury have made some unsatisfactory decisions. For example in R V Wood and Hodgson where the defendants where acquitted when a ten year old died after consuming their drugs and they failed to call an ambulance for two hours. Gross negligence was not defined in R V Adomako and deciding what amounts to gross negligence has proven very difficult. Some say that it should not be described as a form of Mens Rea at the decision as to whether it was gross negligence is objective and as the academic Glanville Williams suggests only a subjective form of Mens Rea would be sufficient for such a serious offence. It is recognised that the law for manslaughter is not clear or thorough enough. If there were different categories of manslaughter with different sentences and more firm tests were established for deciding whether a person is liable or not maybe there would be less injustice, inconsistency and confusion in the courts. ...read more.

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