/ How on earth is this not murder?

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johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/feb/26/bournemouth-man-jailed-kill-punch

I don't understand criminal law. If you punch someone and they die, why isn't that murder? You mean to hurt them even if you didn't mean to kill them - I thought that was enough?

jcm
MG - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Well your're the lawyer, but I thought it had to be intentional, unlike manslaughter.
ChrisBrooke - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I'd be pretty happy to see a murder conviction, and accessories charges on his friends who watch the deed and casually walk off leaving the man prone in the road. I've always been broadly (small 'l') liberal but this sort of thing makes me feel 'this country has gone to the dogs', hanging's too good for 'em' etc, which saddens me greatly. If that was my brother/son/friend and the perpetrator was free to walk the streets after two years I'd be considering taking the law into my own hands.
Mark Westerman - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to MG:

So he didn't intend to punch him?
MG - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Mark Westerman:

Intend to kill.
I'd rather be climbing - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I think the cynical answr is that manslaughter (without intent) is easier to prove, CPS get to tick another box and move on.

You're quite right that there doesn't needto be an intention to kill.

Also, from what I understand (from a few different newspapers) he pled guilty to manslaughter, so it was an easy choice.

The punishment available for manslaughter is (from memory) nto that different to murder, so whay he was given such a lenient one is beyond me. The attourney General is considering a review, so I would expect a bit of a hike in the duration to be coming soon.
Trevers - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Ask Simon Harwood.

I think the difference is that you wouldn't 'reasonably expect' someone to be killed by punching them in the face, or shoving them to the ground.

I think it's about time we updated that expectation- but this would in turn result in several attempted murders every night outside pubs and clubs. It would be pretty radical to upgrade that crime from assault/gbh to attempted murder.
MG - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Mark Westerman:

Seems I'm wrong anyway - intent to cause serious injury is sufficient.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_in_English_law
thomasadixon - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to MG:

Or cause serious injury.
Neil Williams - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to MG:
I would think you would have to have the intent to kill, or the intent to commit violence that could reasonably be expected to kill that person based on your knowledge of the person.

Edit: or cause them serious injury (as others have said), I guess because there is a reasonable expectation that that might kill.

So for two examples, you know a person who has a brain condition that means a shock to the head might kill them (I have heard of this in the past). You punch them in the head, they die. That would I think be murder.

On the other hand, you meet that person in the street and know nothing of their condition. You punch them, they die. You didn't know that would happen, as it wouldn't happen to anyone without that condition based on how hard / where you hit them. That's manslaughter - you caused death without intending to do so.

I had to keep telling myself something similar when I broke my finger a while ago, and felt like lamping anyone who banged into me on the Tube and caused me pain (with the other hand, obviously ;) )...no, not whether I should kill them, but that I can't blame them because they have no idea I am injured, and banging into someone like that normally wouldn't cause pain, so that would be a rather unreasonable response.

Neil
Post edited at 13:19
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Trevers:

I think attempted murder does need an intent to kill, though.

I'd agree that shoving someone to the ground doesn't involve intent to cause serious bodily injury. But it seems to me walking up to someone who isn't even looking at you and throwing the hardest punch you can manage probably does.

As someone said, though, the sentences available are the same (or at least the maximum, I think - not sure about the minimum), so perhaps it's the sentence that is really annoying me. I'm not sure, though. A murder conviction is more of a mark that this sort of thing really won't do, somehow.

jcm
ChrisBrooke - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Trevers:

> I think it's about time we updated that expectation- but this would in turn result in several attempted murders every night outside pubs and clubs. It would be pretty radical to upgrade that crime from assault/gbh to attempted murder.

On the other hand, it might make people think twice before swinging their fists at other people's heads. Which would be a lovely outcome. The law isn't just there to punish wrong doing. It ought to influence people's behaviour pre-emptively.
Trevers - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

> So for two examples, you know a person who has a brain condition that means a shock to the head might kill them (I have heard of this in the past). You punch them in the head, they die. That would I think be murder.

> On the other hand, you meet that person in the street and know nothing of their condition. You punch them, they die. You didn't know that would happen, as it wouldn't happen to anyone without that condition based on how hard / where you hit them. That's manslaughter - you caused death without intending to do so.

> Neil

I see where you're coming from, but surely it's the case that anyone could be killed from a punch in the face. Not from the punch itself, but if they get knocked to the ground unexpectedly and hit their head hard, that can kill anyone.
ChrisBrooke - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Trevers:

I would agree that it's a reasonable expectation that hitting someone as hard as you can in the head could lead to their death, from the blow itself or from the inevitable contact with the ground/brick wall/curb stone/whatever as they fall over.
I'd rather be climbing - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

That's one of the bizzare things about criminal law, to be guilty of murder, you don't need to intend to kill someone, but to be guilty of attemtped murder you do. Essentially, the difference is that you have to do something that is 'more than merely preparatory' i.e. shooting someone in the chest, but they manage to survive, would be attempted murder as there was clearly only one thing you wanted to do.

The difference is there to stop people benefiting from being cr@p at killing someone, otherwise anyone who tries to kill someone and fails through devine/medical intervention) would instead only be guilty of GBH.

A suggestion that has been mooted in the past is degrees of murder like in the USA

1st degree - You mean to kill someone and they die
2nd degree - You mean really serious injury, but they die

Would still allow the label of murder, whilst distinguishing cases
Mike Redmayne - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to I'd rather be climbing:

> That's one of the bizzare things about criminal law, to be guilty of murder, you don't need to intend to kill someone, but to be guilty of attemtped murder you do.

That's not terribly bizarre, is it? If you could be guilty of attempted murder for intending GBH (as with murder), then anyone who tried to break someone's arm would be guilty of attempted murder. I think that would be rather more bizarre.

Mike Redmayne - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Standard case of manslaughter, John. Yes, if the prosecution can prove intent to do GBH they can get a murder conviction, but in a case like this that is pretty hard to prove. Plenty of people get walloped without GBH occurring. And in this case the GBH looks to have been caused recklessly (hitting head on pavement) rather than obviously intentionally. In cases like this ('one punch killers')even manslaughter convictions are controversial (though not in my books).
dissonance - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

> I would agree that it's a reasonable expectation that hitting someone as hard as you can in the head could lead to their death, from the blow itself or from the inevitable contact with the ground/brick wall/curb stone/whatever as they fall over.

Its still a rather slim chance and, on the same basis, simply pushing someone who is unaware could do the same.
Leaving aside the dim mak ninja squad most people wouldnt consider a single punch likely to lead to death. Whilst it can and does happen the chances of it being a deliberate attempt to kill is low I would have thought.
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to dissonance:

>Whilst it can and does happen the chances of it being a deliberate attempt to kill is low I would have thought.

Yes, but that's not the point. Homicide can be murder as long as there's an intent to cause serious injury. I thought there was also something about recklessness as to whether you cause it or not - isn't burning down a house in which someone is killed murder? - but perhaps I'm wrong about that.

Anyway, seems, per Mike R, that the law reckons that punching someone as hard as you can doesn't connote an intent to cause serious injury. Wouldn't have been my view, but I'm not Blackstone, or Coke, or whoever no doubt laid this down five hundred years ago.

jcm
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

The 'mens rea' that has to be proved in murder case is 'intent to kill' and not simply to harm.
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johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Nonsense. See the link someone provided above, and/or any Ladybird guide to criminal law.

jcm
Mike Redmayne - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> I thought there was also something about recklessness as to whether you cause it or not - isn't burning down a house in which someone is killed murder? - but perhaps I'm wrong about that.

You are probably remembering cases like Nedrick from your criminal law lectures. House-burning cases are usually going to be borderline for murder. The house-burner usually says something like 'I only wanted to frighten her'. This will be murder if the prosecution can prove foresight of virtual certainty of causing death / GBH, so maybe something like extreme recklessness.

> Anyway, seems, per Mike R, that the law reckons that punching someone as hard as you can doesn't connote an intent to cause serious injury.

Really serious injury. We're lawyers, words matter. And it'll depend on how strong you are. If I punched someone as hard as I could they'd probably laugh. But it's different for boxers:

http://www.voicesnewspaper.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=74
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Mike Redmayne:

Wikipedia seems to think, in some way I don't understand, that it's up to the judge whether the jury should be told it needs to be 'really' serious to be GBH.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grievous_bodily_harm

Still, evidently the basic point is that you need to prove a lot more intent to hurt someone badly than I think should be the case. I'd definitely be convicting house-burners, and for that matter throwers of concrete blocks off motorway bridges.

jcm
Siward on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

As others have said, the "one punch manslaughter" is a recurring beast in the law courts. There's probably one a week.
blackcat on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to ChrisBrooke:Ive got to agree wiyh you if im to be honest,but the problem is there are are so many angles on what actually happened or happens in these instances.This particular case from what ive read and heard on the news this poor guy could have easily been ignored going on about cycling on the footpath,but what seems to have happened is the guy can see the victim is in no condition to fight let alone take a power punch(liberty taker).The aggressor the sets himself up feet firmley planted and launches the hardest punch he can(bad intent)knowing this poor guy is going down,hes seen his head hit the ground with im sure sickening force,and walks off knowing that man is seriously injured.My conclusion is that warrants maximum manslauter term which normally is 6 to 8 years minimum,plus maybe more cos hes a convicted robber.Each crime has to be looked at differently,thats where the change in law should be at the judges discretion.
cuppatea on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Eggshell Skull, anyone?
johncoxmysteriously - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Well, evidently (as Mike R no doubt knew all along) some academics think even manslaughter is over the top:

>http://www.barristermagazine.com/archive-articles/issue-45/although-the-ministry-of-justice-has-spen...

Hey ho

jcm
TheDrunkenBakers - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

> On the other hand, it might make people think twice before swinging their fists at other people's heads. Which would be a lovely outcome. The law isn't just there to punish wrong doing. It ought to influence people's behaviour pre-emptively.

Indeed
rogerwebb - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Interesting, in Scotland that might well be covered by the doctrine of 'wicked recklessness' 'a disposition depraved enough to be regardless of the consequences' or 'an utter indifference to fatal consequences as well as an intention to cause personal injury'
off-duty - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Wikipedia seems to think, in some way I don't understand, that it's up to the judge whether the jury should be told it needs to be 'really' serious to be GBH.


> Still, evidently the basic point is that you need to prove a lot more intent to hurt someone badly than I think should be the case. I'd definitely be convicting house-burners, and for that matter throwers of concrete blocks off motorway bridges.
jcm


I have had a jury who were unconvinced that stabbing someone in the chest displayed the necessary "intent to GBH".

Hey-ho.
j0ntyg on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> I don't understand criminal law. If you punch someone and they die, why isn't that murder? You mean to hurt them even if you didn't mean to kill them - I thought that was enough?

"After Young argued with Ibitoye, telling him that cycling on the pavement was dangerous."
Gill was OTT. Also, Ibitoye was out of order by cycling on the pavement, there is a 500 for that. So if Ibitoye hadn't broken the law this may not have happened. Gill deserves manslaughter. Also people cycling on pavements cause so many confrontations today. If the traffic scares you that doesn't give you the right to scare pedestrians by cycling on a pedestrian way. Pedestrians have been killed by pavement cyclists.
Post edited at 20:39
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to rogerwebb:

> Interesting, in Scotland that might well be covered by the doctrine of 'wicked recklessness' 'a disposition depraved enough to be regardless of the consequences' or 'an utter indifference to fatal consequences as well as an intention to cause personal injury'

Isn't that how it's always worked with English juries too? That the above case would certainly be enough to convict for murder? The point about the old defence that you meant no more than GBH is that you had to convince the jury. If your actions and/weapon was most likely to result in death, then you're done for. I did law for year at Cardiff University, and saw two murder trials at the Crown Court there (admittedly a v long time ago: 1969-70, and the law may have subtly shifted since then). In both cases the defence was that the defendant had not meant to kill the victim, and the judge directed the jury that they had to be convinced that he had, beyond all reasonable doubt.
rogerwebb - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Wicked recklessness is an alternative to intent, so that whether or not you intended to kill does not matter if you acted with wicked recklessness.
stroppygob - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Trevers:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)
>
> It would be pretty radical to upgrade that crime from assault/gbh to attempted murder.

But worth doing.

Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to rogerwebb:

> Wicked recklessness is an alternative to intent, so that whether or not you intended to kill does not matter if you acted with wicked recklessness.

The 'wickedness', though, as far as the law is concerned, always means some kind of evil intent, even if it is totally abstract (e.g. some kind of grudge against society) i.e. it always means, in the eyes of the law, that a sane person chose freely to act in a particular way that would cause harm to others - when applied to murder cases: cause likely death to others.
rogerwebb - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> The 'wickedness', though, as far as the law is concerned, always means some kind of evil intent, even if it is totally abstract (e.g. some kind of grudge against society) i.e. it always means, in the eyes of the law, that a sane person chose freely to act in a particular way that would cause harm to others - when applied to murder cases: cause likely death to others.

Not an interpretation I am familiar with, it may be different south of the border.
Gordon Stainforth - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to rogerwebb:

Well, it can never simply be society judging it as wicked, can it? Because the perpetrator could be judged clinically insane (though that defence, admittedly, very rarely works). The wicked intent has to be 'proved' to come from within the perpetrator.
Mike Redmayne - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Well, evidently (as Mike R no doubt knew all along) some academics think even manslaughter is over the top:

Yes, that's what I said about a few posts ago, and distanced myself from that view!

Mike Redmayne - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

You really think people are going to stop hitting each other if they suspect they'll go down for murder instead of manslaughter? That's rather naive.
rogerwebb - on 26 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Well, it can never simply be society judging it as wicked, can it? Because the perpetrator could be judged clinically insane (though that defence, admittedly, very rarely works). The wicked intent has to be 'proved' to come from within the perpetrator.

Different legal tradition, it can be implied from an utter indifference to the consequences and an intention to cause personal injury. A blow to the head is likely to show that intention.
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johncoxmysteriously - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
>The point about the old defence that you meant no more than GBH is that you had to convince the jury.

Gordon, WTF are you talking about?? Saying 'I only meant to hurt him badly' has never been any kind of defence to a murder charge AFAIK.

Are you sure this course you did was law, and not, say, creative writing?

jcm
Post edited at 10:39
Offwidth - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Fighting talk ! ;-)
andrewmcleod - on 27 Feb 2014
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I recognise that certain parts of the law do not in any way follow this suggestion (e.g. causing death by careless driving) but I have always believed that the law should consider actions, not consequences.

To take it to extremes, suppose (to take an earlier persons example and mix it with another famous case):

Person A drops a concrete block off a motorway bridge, which causes a land rover driver (who may not have had any sleep) to swerve off a railway bridge onto a live railway which subsequently causes a derailment and a number of deaths.
Person B drops a concrete block onto a motorway that, unbeknownst to them, closes for an unrelated reason immediately after the block is dropped, and the block is then quickly removed by maintenance staff.

I believe that A and B should have the same charge and sentence, as their actions (and intent, understanding of potential consequences etc.) are the same. If we only considered consequences, person B would only be guilty of littering.

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