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Manslaughter law: FAQs answered

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Have you recently been arrested on the grounds of manslaughter? Do you need to know a bit more about this criminal conviction?

It is a broad area, but this article aims to break down and answer common questions relating to manslaughter that are searched online. For more guidance, talk to your defending solicitor.

What is meant by involuntary manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter is an umbrella term used by every criminal solicitor, and it encompasses gross negligence manslaughter and manslaughter caused by a dangerous and unlawful act.

For instance, if you are a doctor and prescribe a harmful medication to a patient and they die, this is gross negligence manslaughter. In the latter example, if you tamper with the brakes on someone’s car, they crash and die, then this is an unlawful act.

How can you differentiate between manslaughter and murder?

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The key difference is intent.

If you intend to kill the person, and this can be established legally, then you will be found guilty of murder. This can be hard to prove, however, especially without written records or evidence relating to conversations.

If someone is approaching you in a threatening way, you push them, and they fall and die, then this would fall within the realm of manslaughter. You didn’t mean to kill them; you just wanted to push them away and defend yourself.

What evidence is used in manslaughter cases?

Typically, courts, police and the prosecution will look at CCTV footage and will use it if the issue occurred somewhere public. As well as this, any eyewitness accounts will be considered and heard when looking at the evidence.

In the case where the death may have occurred in the workplace, the actions of the person who lost their life will be explored and will be assessed to see if they deviated from normal guidelines and boundaries that they were trained in.

What is the maximum sentence for manslaughter?

If you are over the age of 18, there are some sentencing guidelines that need to be applied in manslaughter cases based on the type of manslaughter that it is deemed you have committed.

If convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, you may face up to 18 years in jail. For unlawful act manslaughter, there is a broad range from 1 to 24 years.

What are the defences for manslaughter?

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There are some basic defences against manslaughter that your solicitor will try and put forward to have the sentence reduced.

The first is self-defence; if you have been attacked, you are legally allowed to defend yourself. The next is duress. This occurs when due to pressure from someone else, you were forced to commit the act and is commonly seen in cases where there are gangs or in those who are mentally vulnerable. This can also occur if you were threatened with being killed if you did not commit the act.

And lastly, there is the defence of automatism; this is when, under rare instances, you may not have been aware of what you were doing. This applies in cases where there are serious mental defects, alcohol or other types of intoxication.

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