Does the definition of homicide need more clarity
Objectives of the study 5 1. Limitations of the Study 6 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 7 2. Defining the research question 7 2. Sources (Discussion) 8 2. Classification of homicide 10 2. Research Limitations 20 CHAPTER 4: ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION 21 4. Jurisdiction 21 4. The UK Jurisdiction 21 4. The Norwegian Jurisdiction 24 4. Academics: Criticism 26 4. An example of such is death that results from a fight. Another case of manslaughter is in the situation where the accused leads to the death of someone out of negligence while aware of the risk caused by the actions committed such as reckless driving. Unlawful acts that are committed that results in death are also considered as manslaughter in case there is proof of defense. Murder is classified in situations where a person of sane mind violently leads to the death of a fellow human being.
Killings that happen through unlawful means without proof of defense are also classified under murder. The Law Commission argues that the law of murder contradicts the contemporaneity rule of the criminal law. The United Kingdom applies the criminal justice system that dwells more on punishing offenders and elimination of crime. The law of homicide, especially on murder, ignores the fact of critical analysis to ascertain a state of mens rea. In the “Homicide: Murder, Manslaughter And Infanticide” report of 2006 by the Law Commission, several recommendations are made to come up with a new Homicide Act for England and Wales that encompasses clear definitions of homicide offenses. Many scholars view the definition of homicide through the Homicide Act of 19576 as superannuated. To do this, I will employ the use of a conceptual framework which uses specific indicators thought to impact directly on the homicide rate.
ii. To investigate the influence of the factors in (i) above on the various types of homicide iii. To differentiate the multiple contexts of homicide; intimate partner killings, organized crime and heinous murders iv. To fully understand the actus reus of homicides. The sample size is a major setback in this study. It may affect the study in two ways; instability of the maximum likelihood estimation procedures and making it impossible to detect small to medium size effects that would be present in the study. The more substantial sample size is required for sufficient confidence. • The second limitation is the focus on homicide cases only. Homicide is not a crime in isolation and deserves to be studied alongside its “sister crimes” to understand the non-lethal forms of violence fully.
The specific research questions include; • What are the factors that influence the homicide rates in the UK and what is their influence on the various types of homicides? • What are the different contexts of homicides and how are they differentiated from one another • What is the actus reus of homicides? • What are the elements of premeditated murder? • To understand homicide fully, we must establish the exact time when one’s life begins. So when correctly does life start? Is abortion a form of homicide? • How are the terms murder and manslaughter differentiated? What are the components of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter? • What is meant by misdemeanor manslaughter? The remainder of this chapter focuses on addressing the critical hypotheses that are of relevance in this study, the different types of homicides and a conclusion.
Chapter 3 discusses the methodology deployed in the course of the study while chapter 4 and 5 tackle the analysis and discussion and conclusion respectively 2. Sources (Discussion) In this section, I will make a case for the various factors that influence homicide rates and how they do it. I will do this through the guideline of explicit, concise hypotheses and respond to them from research findings available on the same. The UK is pre-dominantly a white populated country, but there are other ethnic fragments made up of people from different points in the world such as Asia and Africa. The immigrant groups, if not treated fairly by the natives, they would be disenfranchised, and this would make them revolt in protest for just treatment.
In the course of this, a confrontation may result due to this and the two groups will undermine peace in the society. The animosity promotes upsurge of organized gangs and crime syndicates hence increased homicide. H3: Income inequality is a determinant of crime especially in the urban areas of the UK and therefore, higher disparities in income equality should result in high homicide rates. In conclusion, this study is concerned with understanding the concept of homicide in the UK, the types of homicide, the factors that influence homicide rates and how they do so. In this literature review, I have identified the research questions to be considered in this study. They would help in ensuring the study restricts itself to the concept of homicide within the UK and how and why it deserves to be defined with more clarity.
The questions touched on the structure of homicide, a concept commonly confused for murder. The literature review also covered the various hypotheses concerning the factors that influence the rates of homicides in the UK. In the House of Commons Hansard of 30th June 2016, Alex Chalk of Cheltenham constituency argued that the main problem in the definition of murder lies in the determination of sanity and intention to kill. Sometimes it is unreasonable in common sense and unjust to classify together a serial killer and a person convicted of murder due to unanticipated turn of events. Both offenders, despite the disparity in nature of their crimes, serve a mandatory life sentence. Alex Chalk proposed the classification of murder into the first degree and second-degree murder as is with The United States law.
First-degree Murder This is the most heinous type of murder in which the perpetrator plans, premeditates and executes a murder. Alex Chalk argues that in these crimes, even though severe punishment should be administered, discretion should be observed by the judge when serving a sentence. Manslaughter This is the crime of cutting short the life of a fellow human being without malice afterthought. Less severe punishment is offered for this crime. It is considered that even though the law on murder serves an injustice to the defendants, the law of manslaughter serves an injustice to the society. This is because in all cases, the felony is committed and a person's life is cut short unexpectedly. Involuntary Manslaughter This involves a case where the death of a fellow human being is caused by the perpetrator having no desire or intention to kill or cause grievous harm.
This may involve a case where an insignificant crime was being committed, but by bad lack or just a negative turn of events, death is caused. An example of this is a case of two people engaged in a heated argument, then in the process of arguing, one pushes another. Accidentally, the person who is pushed falls on a sharp object that was not seen by both of them. This leads to excessive bleeding and efforts of the fellow person to resuscitate the victim lead to no avail. It outlines the research strategy used to plan the systemic collection and analysis of data to ensure adequate information is obtained. It is also used to ensure the study achieves its objectives and is completed in the required schedule.
The chapter also analyses the research method used for qualitative and quantitative analysis. Different research methods are used to sample the data to be collected and analyzed. It also describes the research approach taken to ensure the dissertation fulfills its laid out objectives. These journals were studied to offer a comprehensive view and analysis of the law on homicide and its impact on society. They are also used to define homicide and describing cases where the different classifications of homicide are used. Another source that was used to provide a literature review is the official publications like White Papers and Impact Assessments. White paper reports on the definitions and view on homicide were used to discover the problem and solutions about laws on murder and manslaughter.
The reports give a modeled view of how the public views the impact of the current laws and also the effects that have been experienced by the verdicts issued by the courts. The Hansard has reports on the parliamentary proceedings of both the House of Lords and House of Commons. Debates on various acts and proposed amendments to the constitution are discussed by the members of parliament. These debates provide an extensive view of the public representation of views about various matters include the law of homicide. The members of parliament argue in debates with information from professionally prepared reports that encompasses all possible views to give a detailed explanation on the matter at hand. These debates have been used in the study to define homicide.
Sample Selection I employed the use of purposive sampling to come up with a sample for the research. This is a non-probability sampling technique in that I selected the two countries based on the knowledge of their jurisdictions. I was cognizant of the fact that UK jurisdiction defines homicide as both voluntary and involuntary murder, but the Norwegian jurisdiction’s concept of murder is intentional murder. The two countries have a special relationship with the phenomenon under study, sufficient and relevant experience in homicide matters, active litigation of homicide cases and proven research background in understanding of raw data concerning homicides. Within this context, the participants of this interview were experienced lawyers and judges from these two countries. I was able to verify and ascertain honesty from my respondents, a factor that enhances the reliability and dependability of the responses.
Unstructured interviews offered the respondents flexibility as I conducted the interview, a factor that made me draw conclusions and note them in the form of short notes. Semi-structured questionnaires helped to restrain me within the research topic of homicides. I could easily deviate using the unstructured questions. Research Limitations Although the study progressed on well, some shortcomings undermined the process; • The sample was too small – two jurisdictions were not sufficient to understand the essence of defining UK homicide with a little more clarity. The two types of homicides envisaged in the UK law are murder and manslaughter. Murder possesses the intention to inflict bodily harm on an individual or merely an intention to kill. Manslaughter is the loss of an individual’s life that is as a result of other mitigating factors such as loss of control, a suicide pact or diminished responsibility.
Where the intention is there but with a trigger from other factors it is known as voluntary manslaughter but where the intent to kill is lacking, it is known as involuntary manslaughter, and it may be as a result of gross negligence or breach of the duty of care. The general features of homicides are; first, the person must be legally defined as a human being and secondly that their death must be as a result of the act or omission of one or more individuals. The mens rea of murder is an aforethought (premeditation) however, separates it from manslaughter. The mental element is interpreted to refer to the intention to kill or inflict serious bodily harm. The inclusion of physical damage has been criticized, specifically in the case of R V Hyam29 where minority judgments of Lord Kilbrandon and Lord Diplock failed to abolish when such was challenged.
Only legislation can abolish this controversial inclusion. Intent to kill is subjective since it is expected that a rational human being would have foreseen death as the result of the act before deciding to engage in it. Lord Mackay in R v Adamoko32 established that duty of care must be demonstrated for involuntary manslaughter charge to be dispensed. The Norwegian Jurisdiction In Norway, the law on homicide is prescribed in the Criminal Code enacted on May 20, 2005. Homicide is a capital offense in the Norwegian law and is severely punished depending on the classification under which it falls. Homicide is classified into three categories; intentional murder, planned murder or murder due to neglect often referred to as manslaughter. Other types of murders such as assisted suicide are also considered illegal in Norway though unlike in the United Kingdom, the punishment is less severe.
This may include killings made by mercenaries, killings made by people contracted by someone else, and those killings committed with intention of extortion. In some circumstances, the judge has the discretion to add to the number of years of imprisonment of the culprit. These circumstances may include cases where there is proof beyond any doubt that the accused may commit murder again. Thus he or she needs to be confined to prevent further crime. Norway's justice system is a criminal justice system in which its main aim is to prevent crime by the means necessary. This is a case in which a person kills his or her loved one due to some arguments or disagreements in marriage. The offender has no prior plan to commit the crime, but due to rage and other factors, murder is committed.
Under the civil penal code, intentional murder in Norway is punished by imprisonment of between six to twelve years. Manslaughter This is defined as a murder in which the offender, due to neglect, causes the death of someone. This can include a car driver, who due to careless driving, causes an accident that claims someone's life. He viewed the shortening of life as just a secondary intention. The primary intention of easing pain and suffering is morally and ethically acceptable in society. The accused was thus found not guilty of murder charges. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in February 2016 redefined the definition of enterprise law. It ruled that the law on joint enterprise has been wrongly interpreted for a long time.
This ruling erupted a new debate on the validity and application of such type of discretion on murder culprits. The Lord Chief Justice argued that excluding infidelity as one of the integral factors that lead up to murder is unrealistic and serves an injustice to the defendants. Law Commission Report The Law Commission of the United Kingdom through its mandated task of providing review and reforms to the current law has set up various undertakings and activities to improve the current law and make it viable. Through research and analysis and various feedback from the Consultation Papers that are contributed by the public, the commission has outlined various reforms to be made on the law of homicide. The Law Commission report proposes amendments to the law to redefine the structure and application of homicide offenses.
The Solicitor General told the House of Commons that the CPS was working to strengthen its approach to homicide cases especially in cases where the partial defense of diminished responsibility was raised. When questioned on the steps CPS was taking in alleviating trauma caused to victims due to character assassinations, the Solicitor General pointed out that CPS was considering taking strict action on character assassination of the deceased, emphasis of the domestic violence context, and the recognition that existence of a mental problem does not necessarily amount to grounds of diminished responsibility. Another member of the house, Fiona Mactaggart sought to know whether CPS had strengthened their guidance for prosecutors and bail application. The solicitor general answered that it was work in progress.
He admitted that the legal provision on ascertainment of proving of diminished responsibility by the psychiatrist needed to be relooked at. Wright clarified that it was impossible to determine the inadequacy of punishment in law without considering all the evidence and mitigation factors about the case. He advised the lawmaker to exhaust the legal avenue that allows the attorney general to appeal low sentence cases. Law Reform – (Murder) - 12th July 2010 The house sought to know whether the government would bring proposals for reforming of the law of murder. Present on the floor of the house for questioning was Lord McNally, the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice. He answered that the government was looking at the recommendations of the Law Commission’s Report and this would inform the government’s approach to the whole issue of review of sentencing guidelines.
For example, the definition of malice aforethought is not viewed the same way it was when the law was first brought up by the Homicide Act of 1957. In the current world, that perception has drastically changed causing a great problem and confusion in the current law. In the time of the enactment of this law, Parliament understood this law differently than it is at present. Its usage is not as it was intended to be. A detailed reform of the law is thus necessary to create a simple and self-explanatory law that works equally for all citizens. Policemen in the line of duty kill armed and dangerous law offenders without being liable for committing a crime. The question that remains is thus what amounts to a legal killing? Reforms should be made to cover the legality of homicide to include cases where the person who kills another is faced with a great threat and danger from the victim, and thus the only way to save his or her life was to end the victim's life.
Caution should, however, be employed in the determination of the amount of threat that can amount to a legal killing. The first instance of threat should have been triggered by the victim in a fatal attempt, and one should have acted in a proven self-defense manner for the killing to be ruled legal. Take for instance a serial killer who attacks the home of an old and frail man. Public participation indicates that most mothers who violate this law are faced with some psychiatric issues that may or may not be understood by the judge and jury. Some mothers have been sentenced to up to life imprisonment for being found guilty of violating the law on infanticide. This is despite the critical understanding of the conditions that these offenders go through.
The law should be reformed to enable a comprehensive psychiatric examination is done on the defenders and rehabilitation performed on them. The law of homicide in the United Kingdom categorizes homicide offenses into only two general categories; murder and manslaughter. The Law Commission should thus undertake a countrywide study to ensure public participation is applied in the reforms to the law. The Judiciary should make their input to the proposed reformed law on homicide, citing their previous experiences in past cases on homicide. Parliament should debate on and make the proposed amendments to the current law on homicide to come up with a reformed law that has coherence and clarity to the definition of homicide. CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION In conclusion, the definition of homicide within the UK context needs to be relooked at.
The current definition was based on the Homicide Act of 1957 that was not only superficial but was more of a blanket cover for the important issue. Over the years, this has been modeled, and in the modern UK law, the actus reus takes into account whether; the act was deliberate, whether the party that died was a person, the defendant committed the act by act or omission and whether the act or omission was unlawful. Based on this, the court decides whether the killing before it is murder or not. Of equal significance is the mens rea of the killing which refers to the presence f intention to kill. The court is tasked to prove that the defendant possessed the intent to kill and if not, such is considered a lesser crime, manslaughter.
I opine that in defining homicide, the law should not lessen any killing by labeling it as manslaughter. There exists a thin line of separation between the concepts of murder and manslaughter that is confusing in justification. It would have been more straightforward and more comprehensible to just treat homicide as what it is wholesomely without having to split into its two distinct forms. Homicide should just be left at what it exactly is; the loss of human life, legal or not. There should never be any justification for the loss of another person’s life whatsoever. In defining homicide more clarity in the UK context, it is crucial to treat it like the capital offense it is, attracting the most severe punishment than sugarcoat it as manslaughter and give it a more lenient sentence.
My attention is drawn to cases of where the intention to kill exists, but the person does not die. This is attempted homicide and had it not been for some mitigation factors; a homicide was bound to happen. Should it go unpunished? No, the law needs to pronounce itself and punish such actions. Aiding another person in the commission of suicide should also be considered a homicide and punished along with those lines. Assisting another person in the loss of his or her life can take the form of inciting them into committing suicide or merely facilitating the suicide process. The clergy in the UK needs to underline homicide as an evil act that should be shunned by all and sundry while legal practitioners like lawyers and advocates have to execute homicide cases in the courts.
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