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email: info@sgkllp.com call: 020 7734 9700

“Raymond Shaw maintains a strong criminal defence practice which includes representing clients facing serious allegations of violence and attempted murder.”
Chambers & Partners 2023

Murder and Manslaughter

We have extensive experience in defending allegations of murder and manslaughter of every type. Our hybrid practice, conducting legal aid work alongside our private practice, means that the firm takes murder cases to trial every year, developing our collective knowledge of current police techniques and prosecution approaches, and honing our active defence skills.

Murder allegations tend to fall into one of the following:

One off incident - many of those accused of murder are facing their first ever criminal allegation. Typically, these will be cases occurring in the home or resulting from unexpected incidents in public places such as pubs and clubs. Some cases arise in response to severe and/or prolonged abuse; we specialise in handling such cases. See Women who Commit Murder/Manslaughter

Crime related killings – many murders arise in the context of other criminality. We have represented those accused of gang-related violence for 25 years building practical knowledge of how best to handle investigations and how to defend criminal proceedings.

Mental Health cases – we have represented multiple clients whose actions were the result of their mental ill health. These cases are diverse, including a mother accused of the killing of her children, a businessman who attacked a fellow director, a man pushing strangers on the Underground.

Young people – given the prevalence of knife crime and the propensity of young people to get into trouble when out in groups, our young clients can find themselves accused of the most serious offence, as a result of their presence at a scene and their friendship with others involved.

In all of these cases we make use of a bank of experts able to cover all eventualities and we instruct the best barristers with whom we have established excellent working relationships.

How we can help

We can represent you wherever you are based, whether it be in the UK or overseas. We support our clients through every stage of the criminal justice process, including:

  • Representation at interviews
  • Pre-charge engagement to prevent charges being brought against you
  • Magistrates court proceedings
  • Crown court proceedings
  • Court of Appeal

For more information on any of the above click here, or if you have been requested to attend an interview or have notification of court proceedings, please contact us today.

Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

Unlawful means without lawful authority, legal justification, or excuse.

The burden is with the prosecution to prove, to the criminal standard, so that the jury are sure, the ingredients of the offence.

Defences to Murder

Self defence

Self-defence can be relied upon as a defence to crimes committed by use of force, including murder.

A jury must consider:

  1. Whether a defendant honestly believed that the circumstances were such as required him/her to use force to defend her/himself or another person from an attack or threatened attack; and
  2. Whether the force used was reasonable in the circumstances.

If a defendant raises the defence of self-defence, the prosecution must disprove it, so that the jury are sure it does not apply.

If the jury accept that the defendant might have honestly believed that the circumstances of an incident required them to act to defend themselves or another and that the force used was reasonable, then they are entitled to be acquitted altogether.

Lack of intent

To be guilty of murder the defendant must have intended to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm.

Intent can be proved by considering from drawing conclusions (inferences) from the circumstances of the offence and its aftermath; evidence from eyewitnesses; the behaviour of the defendant before and after the incident; items seized by the police (for example, weapons) any property found   admissions made by the defendant in a police interview and answers given by the defendant in the interview regarding their actions and intention at the time of the incident.

Insanity

For the defence of insanity to be relied upon the defendant must prove (on the balance of probabilities) that they are not guilty by reason of insanity. 

The defendant will have to show through psychiatric reports that at the time of the offence that they were:

  1. Labouring un such defect of reason due to a disease of the mind as:
  2. Not to know the nature and quality of the act being done or,
  3. Not to know was being done was wrong, wrong meaning contrary to the law

A disease of the mind must be due to an intrinsic cause, such as sleepwalking, mental disorder, arteriosclerosis, or epilepsy. It cannot be due to external causes such as drugs, alcohol, or insulin.

Voluntary Manslaughter and partial defences reduce murder to manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human voluntarily.

Unlawful means without lawful authority, legal justification, or excuse.

There are several partial defences which can reduce the offence of murder to voluntary manslaughter even when intent to kill or cause really serious harm is present.

Diminished Responsibility

For the partial defence of Diminished Responsibility to be relied upon the defendant must prove on the balance of probabilities the following:

  1. The defendant was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning
  2. The abnormality of mental functioning had arisen from a recognised medical condition
  3. And that the abnormality of mental functioning substantially impaired the defendant’s ability to understand the nature of their conduct or to form a rational judgment or to exercise self-control
  4. And that the abnormality of mental functioning provided an explanation for their conduct.

In circumstances where the defendant intends to rely upon this defence, psychiatric reports should be obtained.

Loss of Control

A defendant can potentially rely upon loss of control a partial defence to murder certain circumstances. The defence has three elements;

  1. The defendant lost control
  2. There was a qualifying trigger for the loss of control, namely the below; and
  3. Fear of serious violence against the defendant or another person: or
  4. The loss of control was attributable to things done or said (or both) in circumstances of an extremely grave character which caused the defendant to have a justifiable sense of being seriously wronged.
  5. A person of the defendant’s sex and age, with a normal degree of tolerance and self-restraint and in the circumstances of the defendant, might have reacted in the same or in a similar way to the defendant.

A defendant’s mental health may be relevant to element 2. of the defence in explaining the gravity or seriousness of the trigger to an individual defendant.

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human involuntarily, without intent to cause kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

Unlawful means without lawful authority, legal justification, or excuse.

Unlawful Act Manslaughter

The offence of unlawful act manslaughter is committed in the following circumstances when there has been a death:

  1. There was an intentional unlawful act (selling drugs or a robbery, for example); and
  2. That it is in an act which all sober and reasonable people would inevitably realise must subject the victim to at least some risk of harm.

Gross Negligence

The offence of gross negligence manslaughter is committed where the death is a result of a grossly negligent (though otherwise lawful) act or omission on the part of the defendant.

Examples would include:

  1. Medical negligence
  2. Workplace
  3. Negligence
  4. Deaths in custody

We accept instructions on a private basis. We also conduct work funded through the Legal Aid system, however we do not take on all publicly funded cases and not all lawyers in the firm are available for this work. Please contact us to discuss private case costs and eligibility for legal aid.

For more information on any of the above click here, or if you have been requested to attend an interview or have notification of court proceedings, please contact us today.

Contact the team

Telephone: 020 7734 9700

Madeleine CorrMadeleine Corr
Partner
m.corr@sgkllp.com
Raymond Shaw Raymond Shaw
Partner
r.shaw@sgkllp.com
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