Crime XXXXXXIX- Gross Negligence Manslaughter I

In addition to involuntary manslaughter (reckless manslaughter) and constructive manslaughter (unlawful act manslaughter) there is another category of manslaughter known as gross negligence manslaughter. A defendant can be convicted of gross negligence manslaughter when the negligent act deprives someone of his or her life.

In order to establish or obtain a conviction “for gross negligence manslaughter the facts must be such that, in the opinion of the jury the negligence of the accused went beyond a mere matter of compensation between subjects and showed such disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime against the state and conduct deserving punishment”.

In R v Bateman (1925) a doctor was charged with manslaughter for causing the death of a woman in his care who died during childbirth. It was held that in order for the doctor to be convicted of manslaughter the scope of negligence or the negligent act must not be something that may be defined as trivial or shortsightedness but must be an act that goes well beyond that or negligence that could be described as serious. The doctor was found to be not guilty.

The test that is to be applied in order to determine if the defendant is grossly negligent or otherwise is the subjective recklessness test or the test R v Cunningham (1957).

In R v Cunningham (1957), the appellant ripped a gas meter from a wall in an attempt to steal money that was deposited in a coin box attached to the meter and as a result gas seeped through fissures in the wall and escaped to the neighboring property where Mrs. Wade (Sarah) was sleeping.

“The appellant was convicted upon an indictment framed under s 23 of the Offences against the person Act (1861) which charged that he unlawfully and maliciously caused to be taken by Sarah Wade a certain noxious thing, namely, coal gas, so as thereby to endanger the life of the said Sarah Wade”

In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken not in the old vague sense of wickedness in general but as requiring either

(1) An actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was

done; or

(2) Recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not. It is neither limited to nor does it indeed require any ill will towards the person injured.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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