Murder and Manslaughter Legal Issues
The legal issues discussed in the workbook are murder and manslaughter. These legal issues are very crucial in the criminal justice system since they set grounds on which someone can be accused of murder or manslaughter. The understanding of the two terms helps to avoid unfair and unjustifiable trial and sentence of an individual who may be found to have caused human death. The murder and manslaughter are critical legal issues because it has been difficult for the general public differentiate the two terms. Therefore, it is important for the prosecutors, judges, lawyers and the public at large to understand what entails murder and manslaughter. Before exploring this legal issue further, it is important to define each extensively in order to establish the distinction between the two terms.
What is Murder?
Based on the court and custom definition murder was defined as an intentional killing that cannot be legally justified, hence meaning that it is unlawful (Tadros, 2006, p. 603). This is court definition of murder and goes ahead to note that murder can also be committed with the intentions of malice aforethought. In this context, malice does not depict the murderer acted out of hate or spite but rather the defendant committed the murder that cannot be legally justified. As a result, malice has been categorised as the intentional killing. The person is also suspect of malice if he or she is found to have intentionally inflicted serious bodily harm that may lead to the victim’s loss of life. Secondly, behaving in a manner that exhibits extreme recklessness in regards to another individual life and which end up causing the death of the victim is treated as a murder. The statute defines murder as an act that takes place when a sane person unlawfully takes the life of another person. However, a justified killing and killing for self-defence are not treated as murder. Murder offence must be justified by actus reus and mens rea (Ministry of Justice, 2009, p. 12). The actus reus demands that there should be a proof that the defendant’s unlawful act caused the death of another person. On the other hand, mens rea depicts that the defendant acted out ‘malice aforethought’ which in the current definition of murder that has been used to illustrate the offender’s intention to kill or cause serious bodily harm (Mitchell, 2007, p. 46).
What is Manslaughter?
Manslaughter is the unlawful elimination of one’s life without the intentions of malice. The exception of malice aforethought in this definition means that the manslaughter receives less moral blame compared to murder (The Law Commission, 2006, p. 16). Despite that manslaughter is a serious crime the punishment attributed to it is less than of the murder. Manslaughter usually takes two forms; voluntary, involuntary and corporate manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is said to take place when an individual is provoked and commits the murder in the state that is caused by the provocation (Clough, 2010, p. 2). The persons who commit these types of murder do so out of emotions although it has been found that they can kill intentionally. On the other side, involuntary manslaughter has been defined as the unintentional homicide that occurs as a result of reckless conduct or criminally negligent. This the form of manslaughter is also said to occur out of unintentional killing that may result from crime (Clough, 2010, p. 4). Corporate manslaughter is committed by the organisation or company.
Importance of Murder and Manslaughter Legal Issues in the Real World.
The exploration of these two legal issues helps to determine the trial and the sentencing of the defendant. This is because a person can be accused of murder yet in a real sense he committed manslaughter that was either lawfully justifiable or for the self-defence. In doing so, the investigating officers, the prosecutors, judges, and lawyers are provided with the grounds on which a defendant can be tried and sentenced for murder or manslaughter. This avoids wrongful sentencing of the defendant. For example, for the murder cases, the prosecutor must prove that the accused had intentions to kill or to cause serious bodily harm that caused the death of the victim. On the other side, for the defendant to be accused of manslaughter there must be evidence that the murder occurred out of recklessness and the victims had no or very little knowledge on the occurrence of the death. For manslaughter, the defendant is not accused of malice afterthought because his or her actions are said to be unintentional in causing the death of the victim.
My take on how Law deals with Murder and Manslaughter
Under the English Law, murder is treated as the form serious type of homicide. This because a person tried for murder is termed to have killed intentionally and unlawfully. The cases involving murder can be tried either in England or Wales irrespective of the nationality of the defendant or the place where the accused committed the murder. The sentence on murder depends on the several factors such as the defendant’s age when he or she committed the crime. For example, the accused persons under the age of eighteen years are sentenced guilty but with options to be detained until Her Majesty’s wish. For a person under 21 years, he or she is sentenced to custody for life. Any other person who does not suit in this category serves life imprisonment as a punishment if he or she is found guilty. Based on the several sentences to the different defendant’s accused of murder, I opine that they are biased. The sentencing approach employed by the English Law can increase the cases that influence the individuals under 18 to commit murder. Secondly, life imprisonment may be a solution to curb the increment of the murder cases, but I advocate for the scrapping of life imprisonment sentence and replace it with the specified number of years, for example, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. To me, life imprisonment is equivalent to the silent death sentence even though it does not involve the actual elimination of one’s life.
Manslaughter is not treated as murder. Its punishment is a bit lesser, especially when it is proven the defendant had no intentions to kill. Before the defendant is sentenced in the court of law, the English provides a number factors that must be put into consideration. First, whether the accused is suffering from mental abnormalities that can impair the ability to understand the nature of the actions that might have resulted in the death of someone else. Secondly, the law considers whether the person committed the murders as a result of losing control. Thirdly, the law investigates for the existence of the qualifying trigger that may have forced or compelled the defendant to cause death. Just like the victims of murder those who have been accused of manslaughter can be sentenced to life imprisonment. However, the judge may decide to sentence the offender through other alternatives such as community sentence, suspended imprisonment or prison sentence. I think an individual accused of manslaughter should not be sentenced to life imprisonment. As illustrated earlier, the manslaughter act lacks malice aforethought. Therefore, it is unjustifiable for the law to deal with the manslaughter defendant as the murder defendant.
Connection between Murder and Manslaughter and Other Legal Issues
Unlike other legal issues, murder and manslaughter have been categorised into different levels. For example, first, second and third-degree murder (Tadros, 2006, p. 607). First degree involves the killing of another with the involvement of the violent actions such as arson or rape. The punishments received from this type of murder is more severe than others. The second-degree murder involves the killing through premeditation. The third-degree murder also referred as felony occurs when the defendant kills someone else unintentionally but with the intentions to commit other crimes such as robbery or rape. On the other side, manslaughter has been grouped into three classes; voluntary, involuntary and corporate manslaughter. For both murder and manslaughter, the defendant’s sentence depends on the killing committed. This is a bit different with other types of crime whereby the crime cannot be subdivided into smaller segments to suit different levels of sentences and punishments.
Relationship between the Contingency of Criminalization and Murder and Manslaughter
The occurrences of murder and manslaughter are not common like other criminal offences not only the United Kingdom but also across the globe (Ashworth & Steiner, 1990, p. 161). However, in the recent past, these cases have been increasing tremendously. These crimes are largely perpetuated through sharp weapons such as knife, guns, hitting and kicking. Manslaughter being the lesser criminal offence than murder its occurrences are fewer than that of murder. This because murdering act originates from the intentions while manslaughter is as a result of the unintended actions. The few rates of murder and manslaughter compared to other crimes are because of their severity of the punishment and sentence. However, a number of studies have concluded that the cases of murder and manslaughter have been increasing, especially after the scrapping of the death sentence and replacing it with the life imprisonment (Mitchell, 2007).
Relationship between Decriminalization and Murder and Manslaughter
There is no concrete relationship between decriminalisation and murder and manslaughter reason being that they are criminal offences that entails taking the life of another person. Unlike other offences that can be decriminalised because they do not violate human rights, it is hard to reduce the charges or to justify the offences of murder and manslaughter (Farmer, 1996, p. 65). Secondly, when a person has caused another individual death, the criminal offence committed is either murder or manslaughter. Therefore, there are no alternatives that can be used to decriminalise the termination of someone else life. In fact, the murder case should be more criminalised than manslaughter. This because manslaughter may occur out accident meaning that the person had no intention to kill. To my opinion manslaughter should be decriminalised to a certain level because it does not result from the intentions, unlike the murder. For example, individuals who have committed manslaughter out of uncontrollable forces should receive the lesser charges. However, it is hard to decriminalise the manslaughter offence.
Relationship between the Object of the Law and Murder and Manslaughter
Murder and Manslaughter legal issues agree with the object of law on the grounds that is wrong from the social and political perspectives. The society, as well as the political position, do not give room for the perpetuation of either murder or manslaughter. As a result, when someone has been convicted of murder or manslaughter there are several objectives put in place that the sentenced defendant must meet. Secondly, the legislation sets the grounds in which one can be said to have committed murder or manslaughter. For example, the defendant will be sentenced for committing murder if he or she meant and had intentions to kill. Secondly, a defendant will be found guilty if he or she acted recklessly and as a result cause a bodily injury to another person who has ended up dying. Third, if the offender does not act accordingly to eliminate an object that he or she knows might cause death to another person. The three objects of the law discussed are catalysed by a trait of intention. In acting a manner that causes death, the defendant’s intention is tied in key two aspects; an intention to cause death to another person and secondly, out of his or her intention the offender aims to attain specific results.
Purpose of Murder and Manslaughter Criminal Law
Law treats murder as one of the big and serious issues when it comes to the criminal law. Although the defendant can argue that he or she committed murder from the actions of the self-defense, he or she must specify that the cause of the death was not out of intentions (Simon, 2010, p. 1243). On the other side, the grounds on which one can be convicted of manslaughter comprises of the offender’s mental abnormal functioning or the loss of the self-control. If the offender fails to prove the two defences, then he or she will be convicted for voluntary manslaughter. The voluntary manslaughter criminal law holds that manslaughter is an unintentional killing of another person without malice, premeditation or deliberation. However, the exclusion of malice, premeditation and deliberation from voluntary manslaughter do not make it excusable or justifiable. The criminal law provides that murder offenders should be sentenced to life imprisonment while the manslaughter offenders can be sentenced to life imprisonment, but there is an option of them receiving the plea from Her Majesty.
Relationship Civil/Criminal Boundary between Murder and Manslaughter
The murder and manslaughter cases fall under the criminal law. This is because the defendant’s actions call for the intervention of the government or the state to punish him or her on behalf of the dead plaintiff. Therefore, there is a clear distinction between the murder and manslaughter and the criminal law and civil law. Civil law involves the relationship between individuals that do not call for the attention of the state. Therefore, it will be difficult to find a correlation between the criminal law and the civil law unless it is indirect whereby the individual’s private relations can cause the death of a person. Even though the government will set in to intervene after the death, the criminal offence will prevail to the civil offence.
The position of the Civil Societies on Murder and Manslaughter.
Just like the criminal law treats murder and manslaughter, the civil societies perceive them as the serious criminal offences (Hitchings, 2005, p. 92). However, they treat manslaughter as a lesser crime than manslaughter even though both offences are homicide; this is the same stance taken by the government. Therefore, unlike other criminal offences that may call the attention of civil society, murder and manslaughter do not. Besides, the civil societies do not dispute the enacted laws governing the sentencing of murder and manslaughter offenders. I think this may be due to the fact murder and manslaughter offences involve taking someone else life, unlike other offences.
Learning Experiences and Skills
I have found the studying of law interesting. However, as a law student, I have encountered particular challenging issues. First, law course demands a lot of reading. There is so much reading in law that demands the student to study hard and for long hours. Secondly, a law student should be organised, work smart and work hard. I have learnt the heavy workload will become easy if as a student I am organised and smart. These two attributes will lead to effective reading and handling of assignments. The organisation and smart traits help the student to plan and avoid rushing when the deadlines are almost due. Being smart helps the student to set reading goals and develop reading shortcuts such as focusing on the key legal and case facts instead of unfocused reading that may not be needed either in exams or in gaining law knowledge and skills. This is a lesson I learned after a few weeks I began my law course. It was hard to read all materials until I realised the shortcuts of handling all of them effectively. For a law student to succeed, he or she must combine both organisation and smart attributes with the hard work. Finally, I have noticed that law essays are complicated since they require the student to apply legal facts, case summaries and case reports, unlike other course essays that can be prepared based on the general knowledge. I have been able to overcome this problem by reviewing each essay requirements and getting all the necessary materials I will need before starting my essay.