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The dividing line between the offences of murder and involuntary manslaughter is unacceptably blurred and does not ensure that only the most morally culpable offenders receive the mandatory life sentence. Critically discuss.

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  • Essay length: 2251 words
  • Submitted: 07/05/2011
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University Degree Criminal law

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Criminal Law Summative Coursework:

The dividing line between the offences of murder and involuntary manslaughter is unacceptably blurred and does not ensure that only the most morally culpable offenders receive the mandatory life sentence.

Critically discuss.

In English Law, there are two general homicide offences: murder and manslaughter. Together, they cover the various ways in which someone might be at fault in killing. Homicide is generally defined as the unlawful killing of a human being; there are different offences depending on the mens rea of the defendant and whether there is a special defence available. It has often been argued however "where the scope of murder is too narrow, the scope of manslaughter is correspondingly too broad"1.

Part of the problem is that there is no statutory definition of murder. The accepted definition is taken from Lord Coke, who stated that murder entails 'unlawfully killing a reasonable person who is in being and under the King's Peace with malice aforethought, express or implied.'2 So, in short, murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence, is committed when someone ("D") unlawfully kills another person ("V") with an intention either to kill V or to do V

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