If the accident or the mishap that deprived the victim of his or her life was caused by the victim then the accused would not be found to be guilty of manslaughter. Let’s say for example that a driver gives someone he or she knows a lift in his or her car and the passenger for some reason or other interferes with the steering wheel and that in turn causes an accident and the passenger who interfered with the steering wheel dies as a result of the accident. In such an instance the driver would not be found guilty of manslaughter.
In R v Jones (1870) the accused was the driver of a horse drawn cart and while he was driving the passenger decided to tamper with the horses while the horses were pulling the cart and as a result the driver lost control of the cart and an accident ensued and the passenger died.
The accused was charged with reckless manslaughter but was subsequently acquitted on the grounds that the accident was caused by the inappropriate act of the passenger and not by the carelessness or the recklessness of the driver.
When it comes to weapons, especially guns or even bows loaded with arrows or crossbows for the matter, if the weapon is pointed at the victim, even if it is done in a playful manner or during horseplay and the weapon subsequently goes off and kills the victim than it would be regarded as reckless manslaughter. In R v Jones (1874) the accused pointed a gun at the victim, convinced at the time that the gun wasn’t loaded and the gun subsequently went off and killed the victim. The accused was charged and convicted of manslaughter.
In these type of instances, the lack of intent is about the only thing that could save the accused from being convicted of murder. If the prosecution could in some way establish intent, say for example if they could adduce evidence that the accused had a grudge against the victim or the accused had threatened the victim during an argument than there is a real likelihood that the accused may be convicted of murder.
As we have said earlier reckless manslaughter often involves grossly negligent acts or acts the accused could have done without. Say for example that the accused throws a box out the window of his or her flat or apartment and the box subsequently hits a passerby below and kills him or her than the accused would be found guilty of reckless manslaughter. In R v Franklin (1883) the accused threw a box from a pier and the box hit a swimmer who drowned as a result. The accused was charged and convicted of manslaughter.
Earlier on we looked at omissions from the perspective of criminal law and found that a failure to act in the manner that is required, especially when there is a duty imposed by statute or common law, would most certainly render the accused liable or accountable.
In R v Gibbins and Proctor (1918) for example the accused and his wife, his daughter’s stepmother, failed to feed the accused’s 7-year-old daughter and as a result the child died from starvation. There was a clear discernible intention to kill because his wife hated her stepdaughter and the court held that where there is a common law duty imposed on the parent or parents, a failure to comply with the duty or if a breach of that duty results in death than the parent(s) will be guilty of murder.
Let’s now look at instances or situations where a failure to act as a reasonable human being would lead to sanctions or punishment being imposed on the accused. In R v Instan (1893) the accused was living with her aunt. Her aunt was taken ill and as a result was unable to take care of herself any longer. The accused neglected to feed her and neglected to call for medical assistance or provide her with the relevant medication and as a result her aunt died. The accused was charged and convicted for reckless manslaughter.
In R v Pittwood (1902) the defendant was employed to man the gate at a level crossing and he went off for lunch without closing the gate during which time a man on a horse pulled cart attempted to cross the railway track and was hit by an oncoming train. The accident resulted in the death of the driver and the horse that was pulling the cart. The defendant was charged in court for failing to carry out his duties and was found guilty of reckless manslaughter.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward