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Criminal | Offences Against The Person

Murder: Evaluation & Reform

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Murder: Evaluation & Reform

[Flash Card 1 of 4]

  • Law Commission criticised / 2006 Report / .. law governing homicide in England and Wales is a rickety structure set upon shaky foundations.. this state of affairs should not continue... (Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide)


  • confusion / Lord Bridge / .. leave it to the jury's good sense to decide whether the accused acted with the necessary intent... (Moloney)
  • lacks clarity / attempt codify meaning (S8 Criminal Justice Act 1967)

Foresight of Consequences:

  • definition attempted / numerous cases / still unclear
  • mere foresight of probable death not sufficient intent / can be used to infer intent by jury (Moloney)
  • was consequence virtual certainty / if D foresaw / jury infer D intended (Nedrick)
  • was consequence virtual certainty / if D foresaw / jury find D intended (Woolin)
  • foresight of consequences / like rule of evidence / jury interpret (Matthews & Alleyne)
  • substantive rule / or like evidence / is distinction relevant
bits of law

Murder: Evaluation & Reform

[Flash Card 2 of 4]

Serious Harm Rule:

  • if D intends serious harm / fair to convict for murder?
  • unfair / no distinction / D intends serious harm or D intends to kill
  • miners / block road / HoL substituted for manslaughter / probability of death paramount importance (Hancock & Shankland)
  • Law Commission criticised / too wide / Homicide Act 1957 required D realise death possible consequence / (Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide)
  • been argued / mens rea / restricted to intent to kill
  • judicial support / Lord Edmund Davies / broken arm example (Cunningham)

Self Defence:

  • defined statute / .. A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances... (S8 Criminal Law Act 1967)
  • reasonable / how D viewed the situation / subjective
  • D who acts in self defence / to prevent crime / complete defence / D innocent
  • if use of force / considered disproportionate / D guilty
  • D shot intruders / unreasonable force / guilty murder / appeal diminished responsibility due to paranoid disorder (Martin)
  • D soldier / shot at car / passed checkpoint / not in self defence / guilty murder (Clegg)
bits of law

Murder: Evaluation & Reform

[Flash Card 3 of 4]

Mandatory Life Sentence:

  • defined statute / .. a person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life... (S1 Murder(Abolition of The Death Penalty) Act 1965)
  • highest punishment for most serious crime / appease those opposed abolition of death sentence
  • judge no discretion / those over 18 yr old / for 10 - 17 yrolds detained at Her Majesty's pleasure
  • always minimum number of yrs to be served / before application for release on licence / inflexible
  • argued degrees of seriousness within killings / not recognised in sentences
bits of law

Murder: Evaluation & Reform

[Flash Card 4 of 4]

Law Commission Proposals for Reform:

  • need for clear definition of intention / suggested definition / 1993 report (Offences Against the Person and General Principles)
  • reclassification of unlawful killing offences / murder into two separate offences / 2006 report (Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide)
  • first degree murder / D intended to kill / or D intended to cause serious harm & realised serious risk of death / mandatory life sentence
  • second degree murder / D intended to cause serious injury but not aware of serious risk of death / discretionary sentence / maximum of life imprisonment
  • self defence could be partial defence / conviction for manslaughter not murder /sentencing discretion

Government Response to Proposals for Reform:

  • rejected two tier system / consultation paper 2008 (Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide)
  • wanted protection for D who acted in self defence / but found used excessive force / lead to loss of control partial defence (Coroners and Justice Act 2009)
  • loss of control / conviction to be reduced from murder to manslaughter / D lost control due to fear of violence
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