You may have seen it spoken about on soaps, especially if you live in the UK, a plotline that ends with someone being accused and convicted of manslaughter.
However, if you are like the average person who did not study law you may be curious as to what that actually means. So, in this guide, you will be walked through what the charge is, along with what the punishment is under UK law.
What is manslaughter?
Manslaughter is a criminal offence under the laws of the United Kingdom. The term ‘manslaughter’ simply means that the killing of a person was not the aim of the perpetrator. It is a severe criminal offence and can result in significant penalties, including imprisonment.
It is a broad charge that encompasses a range of different types of unlawful killings. In the UK, there are two main types of manslaughter. As you may have guessed, if you are arrested for either, you need to contact a criminal solicitor for advice.
Voluntary manslaughter is simply when a person kills another person, but they do not have the intention to kill or cause serious harm. For example, if a person discovers their partner is having an affair and reacts by killing the other person, this may be considered voluntary manslaughter. The critical element of voluntary manslaughter is that the killing was not premeditated or planned.
If you have been accused of committing involuntary manslaughter, this means you may have caused death via reckless behavior, or by not taking the correct actions to prevent it. This may involve a failure to take reasonable care, such as in cases where a person drives a car resulting in a fatal accident due to reckless driving. It can also include situations where a person causes the death of another person through a criminal act that was not intended to cause death, such as in cases where a person kills someone while committing a different crime, such as burglary or assault.
Being found guilty of manslaughter
There are several elements that must be present for someone to be found guilty of manslaughter under UK law. First, the prosecution must prove that the defendant caused the death of another person. This may involve demonstrating that the defendant’s actions or omissions directly led to the end of the victim’s life.
The prosecution must first prove that the defendant had the necessary state of mind to commit manslaughter. In cases of voluntary manslaughter, this may involve demonstrating that the defendant was provoked or acted in the heat of the moment. In cases of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecution must show that the defendant was negligent towards the victim in their behaviors.
The prosecution must prove that the defendant’s behavior was unlawful. This may involve demonstrating that the defendant broke a specific law, such as traffic laws, in the case of a fatal car accident.
Penalties for manslaughter in the UK
The legal recourse for manslaughter can be severe, depending on the circumstances of the case. In cases of voluntary manslaughter, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, although, in practice, the sentence is likely to be lower. In cases of involuntary manslaughter, the punishment may be less severe, but can still involve a significant period of imprisonment.