Crime XXXXXXI – Involuntary Manslaughter VII

Earlier on under constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter we had established that a defendant cannot be convicted for constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter if the death that occurred was the result of an omission i.e. a failure to comply with a duty imposed by either common law or statute. That however does not mean that the defendant would not be guilty of reckless manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

In Harris & Harris, R v (1993) the defendants, the parents, refused to allow doctors to treat their daughter with insulin. The child suffered from diabetes and the child died as a result. The parents were found guilty of manslaughter.

Parents have a duty to act responsibly when it comes to making decisions with regards to their children and a failure to do so or to act in accordance with the duties imposed by either common law or statute may compel the courts to impose some form of sanctions on the parents.

A failure to act in the manner that most people would under the circumstances or the manner in which a reasonable man would in the given circumstances may also compel a court or a jury to find the defendant(s) guilty.

In R v Khan (1993) the defendants were drug dealers who supplied a girl with a class A drug (heroin). It soon became apparent that the girl needed medical attention but the defendants left her by herself and her body was found the next day dumped in a waste disposal ground.

As per the decision in R v Dias (2002) the defendants could not be found guilty of constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter and this includes situations where the dealer has prepared the solution and handed in to the victim in a syringe if the victim is “a fully informed and responsible adult”.

Here the victim was a minor (15 years old) and did not fall into the category of or cannot be classed as a fully informed and responsible adult.

The defendants were not convicted for constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter but were found guilty instead, of involuntary manslaughter or reckless manslaughter by way of omission i.e. for failing to comply with a duty imposed by either common law or statute or for failing to act in the manner a reasonable man would have in the given circumstances.

Under manslaughter the prosecution has some discretion to go for the types of manslaughter that are available to obtain a conviction but it is important that the prosecution gets it right the first time because the courts might not allow or might be reluctant to allow a retrial.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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