Homicide

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 21st March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Wills Lord Wills Labour

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the need for changes to the offence of manslaughter by gross negligence, in the light of the Court of Appeal ruling that the conviction of Dr David Sellu was not safe.

Photo of Lord Wills Lord Wills Labour

To ask Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the offence of manslaughter by gross negligence (1) how many case have been prosecuted, (2) how many cases have been successfully prosecuted, and (3) how many convictions have been quashed on appeal, in each of the last 10 years.

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

The law relating to manslaughter by gross negligence was clarified in the case of R v Adomako (1994) where a four stage test, known as the Adomako Test, was outlined by the House of Lords. Before convicting a defendant of gross negligence manslaughter a jury has to be satisfied that:

(a) that there was the existence of a duty of care to the deceased;

(b) that there was a breach of that duty of care;

(c) that the breach of that duty of care caused (or significantly contributed) to the death of the victim; and

(d) that the breach of the duty of care “departed so far from accepted standards” as to be characterised as gross negligence, and therefore a crime.

The Government takes the view that the Adamako Test continues to provide effective and appropriate guidance in aiding the determination of gross negligence manslaughter cases. In allowing Dr Sellu’s appeal, the Court of Appeal did not call for the law to be changed, and the Government has no plans to reform the law in this area.

The overall statistics on manslaughter are available in the ‘Criminal Justice Statistics’ series at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/criminal-justice-system-statistics-quarterly-december-2015. Statistics are not separately captured on whether a case of manslaughter occurred as a result of gross negligence.

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