Week 3 - Minding the gap in unlawful and dangerous act manslaughter : a moral defence of one-punch killers

  • Mitchell B
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Abstract

Whilst it is true that the one-punch killer has crossed a moral threshold and acted wrongfully by committing an assault, his victim's death may be both unforeseen and unforeseeable. The gap between what was foreseen/foreseeable and death may thus be considerable. This article suggests it is too great; convicting the killer of manslaughter places too much weight on the element of luck. The task then is to identify an appropriate principle for regulating the gap and in the course of tackling this task the article considers and rejects, inter alia, a recent recommenda-tion by the Law Reform Commission of Ireland. Much of the discussion generated by publication of the Law Commis-sion's Consultation Paper and Final Report on the law of homicide' and, indeed, the Ministry of Justice's current review has concentrated on offences at the 'upper end' of the scale, especially on the Commission's proposals for grading murder by degrees and what has hitherto been referred to as voluntary manslaughter, and the way this might be restructured. Comparatively little has been said about involuntary man-slaughter, 2 particularly about offences at the lower end of the scale-the critical point at which deaths cease to be accidental, or perhaps merely negligent, and become criminal. The debate about the minimum moral culpability for manslaughter has been raised particularly in relation to unlawful and dangerous act manslaughter (hereafter 'UDA manslaughter')-with which this article is especially concerned-rather than manslaughter by gross negligence, and the Law Commission's latest proposals appear to rely heavily on the Home Office's recom-mendations made in 2000.' Conviction for UDA manslaughter can result when, perhaps in the course of a drunken fight, D punches V who falls over, hits his head on

Author-supplied keywords

  • moral
  • moral threshold
  • unlawful act manslaughter

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Authors

  • Barry Mitchell

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