Femicide, Homicide, Murder And Manslaughter

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It would appear that Barbara Ellen, a columnist for The Observer, needs a little education in the English language. Or perhaps it’s the law. Possibly even just some basic logic.

Here’s her question:

Doubtful of achieving a guilty murder verdict, the Crown Prosecution Service reduced the charge to manslaughter. Broadhurst pleaded guilty – effectively to not ringing for help quickly enough. He could be out within two years. Well done to the former solicitor general Harriet Harman for officially querying this outcome, but what was the CPS thinking – perhaps something along the lines of: “Any conviction is better than nothing”? Did it really not trust a jury to be convinced of intent in this instance? If not, exactly what would it take for a woman’s violent death at the hands of her partner to be called murder?

To answer that last question, the thing required is mens rea. No, that’s not about men, different language. It means intent more or less. To be guilty of murder you must have intended to kill someone. If you kill someone and you didn’t intend to – sure, it’s a little more complex than this but not much – then you cannot have murdered them. You might have committed manslaughter, manslaughtered them not really being a word.

So, where we’re not sure – and if we’re not sure then a jury is going to be tough to convince – that someone actually intended to kill that dead person at the bottom of the stairs then it’s not a murder prosecution it’s a manslaughter one. Which is the explanation for why this case went the way it did and also the answer to that question being posed. What would it take for a woman’s violent death at the hands of a man to be called murder? That he intended to kill her.

But this is Ms. Ellen, of course it gets worse than this:

The recent census on femicide reported, among other things, that 139 women died as a result of male violence in 2017, with three-quarters of the victims knowing their killers.

Ah, you see, here’s she’s using femicide, that gender divergence from homicide. Which includes both murder and manslaughter – both being illegal methods of killing someone.

The Home Office Homicide Index showed there were 518 homicides (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) in the year ending March 2015 in England and Wales.

There were differences between males and females in the pattern of relationships between victims and suspects. Women were far more likely than men to be killed by partners/ex-partners (44% of female victims compared with 6% of male victims), and men were more likely than women to be killed by friends/ acquaintances (32% of male victims compared with 8% of female victims).

In the year ending March 2015, just under two-thirds of homicide victims were male (64%, 331 victims) and one-third were female (36%, 186 victims).

A useful enough guide to when someone’s trying to slide something by you is when they change definitions in mid-argument without telling you that they’re doing so.

Tsk, I mean tsk!

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Strontium Pup

The mens rea for murder (“malice aforethought”) does not always require intention to kill; intention to cause grievous bodily harm, or foresight that GBH will virtually certainly occur, is sufficient (R v Moloney; R v Woollin). That might make a difference.