Current project status
The current status of this project is: Complete.
List of project stages:
- Analysis of responses
- Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
- Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
- Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
- Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
- Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations
Providing a clear structure for charging murder offences. Our recommendations on partial defences have been implemented in large part by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The remainder of our recommendations have been rejected by Government.
The law governing homicide in England and Wales has some rules which have remained unaltered since the seventeenth century. This is even though it has long been acknowledged that they are in dire need of reform.
In our 2004 report, “Partial Defences to Murder”, we described the current law as “a mess” and recommended a complete review of the law of murder.
In October 2004, the Home Office announced that a review of the law of murder would take place.
This was confirmed on 21 July 2005 when the then Home Office Minister Fiona MacTaggart announced the terms of reference of a comprehensive review.
On 20 December 2005 we opened a consultation seeking feedback on our provisional proposals for reforming the law. We sought responses from the public, criminal justice practitioners, academics and those who work with victims’ families. The consultation closed on 13 April 2006.
On 29 November 2006 we published our report, “Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide”.
We recommended that instead of the current two tier-structure of general homicide offences, namely murder and manslaughter, there should be a three-tier structure:
- first degree murder (mandatory life sentence)
- second degree murder (discretionary life sentence), and
- manslaughter (discretionary life sentence).
First degree murder would be confined to:
- unlawful killings committed with an intention to kill.
- unlawful killings committed with an intent to cause serious injury where the killer was aware that his or her conduct involved a serious risk of causing death.
Second degree murder would encompass:
- unlawful killings committed with an intent to cause serious harm.
- unlawful killings intended to cause injury or fear or risk of injury where the killer was aware that his or her conduct involved a serious risk of causing death.
- cases which would constitute first degree murder but for the fact that the accused successfully pleads provocation, diminished responsibility or that he or she had killed pursuant to a suicide pact.
Manslaughter would consist of:
- unlawful killings caused by acts of gross negligence
- unlawful killings caused by a criminal act that was intended to cause injury or by a criminal act foreseen as involving a serious risk of causing some injury.
We also recommended reforms in relation to complicity in murder, diminished responsibility, provocation and infanticide and that the Government should undertake a public consultation on whether, and if so to what extent, the law should recognise either an offence of “mercy” killing or a partial defence of “mercy” killing.
This report makes a comparative study of murder in overseas jurisdictions.
Our recommendations on the partial defences of provocation and diminished responsibility have been implemented in large part by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The remainder of our recommendations have been rejected by Government
Area of law
Professor David Ormerod QC