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What’s the difference between Manslaughter and Murder?

Manslaughter and murder and two of the most serious offences you can be charged with, however, differentiating between the two can be very complex. The distinction between these crimes often comes down to the consequence of the offence, such as whether the death of a person was caused intentionally, recklessly or accidently.

Understanding the 3 partial defences for murder

Manslaughter and murder are the two of the main categories for offences that result in the death of a person. Murder is committed when a person is of sound mind and discretion and unlawfully kills another, in an act that is not self-defence. There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. The key difference between both of these offences and murder is that a partial defence applies.

1. Diminished Responsibility

The defence of diminished responsibility reduces the murder conviction by removing malice aforethought. For example, if the offender has an abnormality of mental functioning caused by a recognised medical condition, diminished responsibility may be pleaded successfully. It will, however, be necessary to obtain and serve complex medical evidence as to the state of mind of the accused, at the time of the offence and leading up to it.

2. Provocation/Loss of control

There may be evidence to suggest that an act was provoked immediately before the offence, however, this provocation must have been sufficient to make a ‘reasonable man’ do as the defendant did and lose self-control. The act must have therefore negated the offender’s ability to properly control his or her behaviour.

3. Suicide Pact

A suicide pact is an agreed plan between two or more individuals to commit suicide. The plan may be to die together, or separately and closely timed. The accused must have intended to die in the pact to stand accused of manslaughter rather than murder.

Making a case for involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter is charged when a death is caused by the defendant’s recklessness, gross negligence or by an unlawful and/or dangerous act. This means that the resulting death caused by the defendant’s action is unintentional, yet it has been caused through some form of recklessness or criminal negligence. For example, the accused may have struck the victim once using a clenched fist, prompting the victim to fall to the floor, hitting their head on the pavement, and in turn causing a severe head injury that results in death.

What are the sentences for murder and manslaughter?

If a person’s found guilty of murder, a court must give them a life sentence. With manslaughter, there is no mandatory sentence and the consequences under UK law range from:

  • A prison sentence – typically ranging between 2-10 years.
  • A suspended term of imprisonment (the sentence can be suspended for up to two years and the offender is given the chance to comply with up to 12 requirements set by the court).
  • Community service.

The sentence will depend on the specific circumstances of the offence. If you have been accused of murder or manslaughter, it’s essential to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. Here at Noble Solicitors, we specialise in complex crimes and have decades of experience fighting for more favourable outcomes. You can learn more about us by calling 07000 81 82 83.

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