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Manslaughter is the crime of killing a human being. It is considered less morally culpable by the law than murder. The crime of manslaughter falls into two separate classes, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is by an ‘unlawful and dangerous act’ (eg. Speeding) or by criminal negligence. The test for what is considered unlawful and dangerous is objective, which means that we have to ask what the reasonable person in the accused’s position would consider unlawful and dangerous.

Manslaughter is often used an alternative to murder when the accused voluntarily does an act but does not have the intent to murder or seriously injure. It is to be noted that the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) creates the crime of manslaughter for the survivor of a suicide pact under s.6B.

An example of this would be criminally negligent manslaughter when driving extremely dangerously while drunk. There has been case law where people have been charged with manslaughter when they have engaged in a ‘drag race’ with another car and that car has lost control resulting in the death of one of the drivers.

A wordy explanation criminal negligence and intent can be found in Crockett J’s judgment in R v Haywood [1971] VR 755 at 758 who stated that the prosecution must show “…the act which caused the death was done by the accused consciously and voluntarily, without any intention of causing death or grievous bodily harm but in circumstances which involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable man would have exercised and which involved such a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow the doing of the act merited criminal punishment.”

It is also possible to commit manslaughter by omission. This is where one person has a legally recognised duty to act. It cannot be a mere moral obligation to act. One such duty is that of a person who assumed the care of someone who was incapacitated by age or disability, that was unable to feed themselves, being starved to death. Or a failure to provide assistance to someone who was in their duty of care. The law will imply a duty to act in these circumstances (when there is a clear duty of care). See the case of Justins v Regina [2010] NSWCCA 242.

Should you require a lawyer please feel free to contact Grigor Lawyers. It is highly advisable in indictable matters that you contact a legal practitioner. Grigor Lawyers can can advise and represent you in these matters.


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