Murder & Manslaughter

“Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest.”  W. H. Auden.

Anomaly in the Definition of Murder in English Law

If Auden is right, it is something of an anomaly that there is no statutory definition of murder in English law. Murder remains a common law offence with a wide net. The offence is not confined to only those who kill with the intention of killing; an intention to cause serious injury will be sufficient. Serious injury need not however be life-threatening injury. Notwithstanding the abolition of joint enterprise by the Supreme Court in R v Jogee [2016] UKSC 8], and attempts to narrow the mens rea of complicity, in practice the law still permits the net to be cast wide in multi-handed cases.

Partial Defences and Exceptions

The partial defences of diminished responsibility, loss of control, and killings committed as part of a suicide pact may of course reduce murder to manslaughter. Similarly, the offence of infanticide will often obviate what would otherwise be a conviction for murder and allow a mother’s culpability for the killing of her child to be treated with the discretion it deserves. By contrast, however, duress is not a defence to murder and those who kill at the request of and with the informed consent of others for well-founded compassionate reasons, will also find themselves without a defence to murder.

Law Commission’s Proposals and Legislative Inaction

In 2006 the Law Commission made proposals for a more limited law of murder, including the introduction of a statutory offence of first-degree murder [Law Commission, Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide (Law Com 304, 2006)]. Eighteen years on there is still no inclination by any political party to make a legislative attempt to reflect the proposals.

Challenges in Sentencing and Murder Liability

Despite the range of circumstances in which killings occur, a conviction for murder will still not be confined to the most serious offending, judges will continue to be limited when it comes to sentence, and the route to murder liability, particularly as an accomplice, will inevitably continue to be problematic and in some cases unjust.

For more information please contact our clerks on 020 7404 1881 or via email to clerks@drystone.com. We will discuss your case with you and then arrange the right representation for your matter.

Murder & Manslaughter Barristers

Allison Summers KC

Call 2000     Silk 2020

Andrew Campbell-Tiech KC

Call 1978     Silk 2003

Karim Khalil KC

Call 1984     Silk 2003

Stephen Spence

Call 1983

Christopher Wing

Call 1985

Nicholas Bleaney

Call 1988

Sean Minihan

Sean Minihan

Call 1988

Simon Kitchen

Call 1988

William Carter

Call 1989

Isobel Ascherson

Isobel Ascherson

Call 1991

Duncan O’Donnell

Call 1992

Robert Bryan

Call 1992

Jonathan Green

Call 1993

Charles Myatt

Call 1993

Zarif Khan

Call 1996

Barnaby Shaw

Call 1996

John McNally

Call 1996

Joanne Eley

Call 1997

Karen Walton

Call 1998

Claire Matthews

Call 1998

Ryan Thompson

Call 1999

Stephen Donnelly

Stephen Donnelly

Call 2001

Azza Brown

Call 2001

Philip Farr

Call 2001

Lynne Shirley

Call 2002

Jo Morris

Call 2003

Claire Howell

Claire Howell

Call 2003

Christopher Jeyes

Call 2005

Unyime Davies

Unyime Davies

Call 2006

Simon Walters

Call 2010

Richard Davies

Call 2013

Giles Fleming

Call 2016

Michael Cranmer-Brown

Michael Cranmer-Brown

Associate Member

Call 1986

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