Involuntary manslaughter is whenthe defendant (D) has the actus reus of murder (unlawful killing) but does notsatisfy the mens rea (intention to kill or cause GBH)1.There are four ways involuntary manslaughter can be determined; Unlawfuldangerous act manslaughter (UAM), Gross Negligence Manslaughter (GNM), recklessmanslaughter and corporate manslaughter. UAM is when the defendant causes thevictim’s death whilst carrying out a criminal act that is deemed to bedangerous. To prove that a defendant has committed UAM2,it is necessary to prove that the D has committed an intentional, unlawful,dangerous and fatal act, see Larkin 19443.
In order to satisfy GNM there must be a duty of care, breach of duty, causingdeath and appropriate for criminal liability (Adomako 19944).Reckless manslaughter fills the gap between UMA and GNM. Finally, just like anatural person a corporation has a legal personality and can be criminallyliable, this is known as Corporate manslaughter. This also requires theelements of GNM to be established. This essay will discuss the relevant issuesin relation to Unlawful Act Manslaughter based on the scenario given.
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Keith could be charged with the InvoluntaryUnlawful Act Manslaughter of Janis. Sometimes known as Constructive Manslaughterand occurs when D causes victim’s death whilst carrying out a criminal act thatis deemed to be dangerous. There is no statutory citation for thisoffence. First, the prosecution must provethat the act of Keith was unlawful. In essence, this must be a criminaloffence and cannot be an omission. In Cato5the act of injecting the Farmer was “an unlawful ac of administering anoxious thing that that act had caused death.” We are told that Keith “injectedthe heroin into her arm” which clearly amounts to an unlawful act and probablyfalls under the ambit of Actual Bodily Harm6(ABH) by virtue of S.47 OAPA 18617.
Cato8 alsoestablished that “the injection of others was a criminal offence and thatactive participation in injuring others should not, as a matter of publicpolicy, be condoned”. At this stage, itis submitted there is no dispute on the actus reus nor mens rea and thereforeboth have been fulfilled. Next the Prosecution will have toshow that the act of Keith was dangerous. Edmund Davis LJ9in Church10 stated that “theunlawful act must be such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitablyrecognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harmresulting there from, albeit not serious harm.” It is clear that the acts of Keith would satisfy the test laiddown in Church11as injecting someone with heroin would subject a victim to some harm and allsober and reasonable people would no doubt recognise this. The actions ofKeith must have the substantial cause of death in respect of Janis.
Here,the ordinary principles of causation apply name factual causation (preliminarylink and the ‘but for’ test) as well as legal causation (operating andsubstantial). In Carey12,the court held that the injuries suffered by the victim were a mere COINCIDENCEand not a CONSEQUENCE of the unlawful act. It is argued that there is no dispute in terms of factualcausation in that a preliminary link is established between Keith’s actions andthe death of Janis and that but for Kieth’s actions Janis would not have died. A rather more problematicarea is that of legal causation in that Kurt could argue that the actions of Keithbroke the chain of causation. Here acts ofthird parties will break the chain if their actions were not reasonably foreseeable.
However, it is unlikely that Keith would succeed with such a ‘defence’ in that ashe is clearly ‘a’ cause of her death and his actions would satisfy the deminimis test, see Smith13.Therefore, though prompt medical treatment might have saved Janis’s life, herdeath was entirely the result of the injecting heroin inflicted by Keith. Finally, the prosecution willneed to show Keith had the mens rea for the crime. Here, it is only theunlawful act itself must have been intentional and must have been accompaniedby the mens rea to commit that act, see Newbury and Jones14. It is contended that Keith was at least reckless in committing the offence ofABH.
Moving forward, Keith could alsobe charged with involuntary unlawful act manslaughter for Kurt. Once again, theprosecution has to prove whether Keith’s act was unlawful. As stated above,this must be a criminal offence and cannot be an omission. Secondly, the prosecution needs toprove whether Keith’s action was dangerous. At this stage, it is clear that Keith’saction was dangerous, as a reasonable person is aware that supplying or takingillegal drug is dangerous. Thirdly, the prosecution needs toprove if Keith intentionally commits an unlawful act which can lead to thepossible harm of the victim, this must be a criminal offence and at this stagethis has been fulfilled as heroin is illegal and Keith did “prepares a syringeof heroin” and “passed a syringe to each of them.
” At this stage Keith knowsthat heroin is a dangerous/ illegal drug (Misuse of Drug Act 197115)and it is clear that this could potentially lead to some harm or serious harmto the victim. However, Keith did not have the mens rea for the death of Kurtas he didn’t know the drug was poisoned. Furthermore to Keith’s charge,the prosecution needs to confirm that Keith’s action was a fatal act. It Isclear the Kurt died due to the use of drug however the unlawful supply ofheroin did not cause the death of Kurt.
Kurt made a voluntary decision to takethe drug and inject himself. However, Kurt may be able toclaim the general defence of intoxication. Intoxication can be either voluntaryor involuntary. In general, where the intoxication is voluntary, a person willnot be excused from the consequence of their action unless their actions amountto a specific intent crime.
Voluntary intoxication is where the defendant takesthe drink or drug of his own free will. As a rule of thumb, involuntaryintoxication will be available for both specific and basic intent crimes. This iswhere a person does not know he was taking alcohol or an intoxicating drug. In suchcases, there will only be a defence if the mens rea for a crime was not formed,although it is not always easy to prove that it has not been formed, seeKingston16.On the fact that Kurt has been intoxicated voluntarily, he has committed abasic intent crime and therefore where Kurt does not realise the strength ofthe drug he has taken, it does not make the intoxication involuntary, see Allen17.