Mick and Mairead Philpott guilty of manslaughter of their six children


On Tuesday 2 April 2013, Mick and Mairead Philpott and their friend Paul Mosley were convicted of the manslaughter of six children by setting fire to their house.

The background to the story can be found here (BBC).

The essence is that Mick and Mairead Philpott and their friend Paul Mosely hatched a plan to set fire to their house in an attempt to frame his live-in mistress, Lisa Willis. The prosecution case was that the motivation for seeking to frame Lisa Willis was that the ‘crime’ would help turn family law proceedings in relation to their children in Mick Philpott’s favour.

Five of the six children died on the morning of the fire and the sixth died three days later. The children were: Jade Philpott, 10, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five. Duwayne, 13, was Mairead Philpott’s son from a previous relationship.

The fire was far bigger than was anticipated and took hold of the house very quickly.

The court heard that Mick Philpott had a ‘violent past’, with a conviction for the attempted murder of a former girlfriend in 1987.


Manslaughter is divided into two: a) voluntary manslaughter and b) involuntary manslaughter. The former occurs when there is an intention to kill but a defence is present which reduces the conviction from murder to manslaughter. An example would be loss of control.

The latter, which is the case here, is where there is an absence of an intention to kill. Apart from the absence of the requisite intent, all other elements of the offence are the same as for murder.

There are two types of involuntary manslaughter, namely:

  • that caused by the defendant’s gross negligence; and
  • that caused by his unlawful or dangerous act.

It appears that in this case, this is ‘unlawful act’ manslaughter, with the act being arson.


Mick Philpott and Paul Mosley were found guilty by unanimous verdicts. Mairead Philpott was convicted by a majority after an 8 week trial.


Mrs Justice Thirlwall said that the three would be sentenced on Wednesday.

Of course, no sentence of a court can properly reflect that a life – and such young lives at that – have been lost. Sentences must however reflect that fact that six children have died (for example, a careless driving sentence will be increased to reflect the loss of life, where the driving is equally culpable).

So, what is the likely sentence? Well that is a difficult question. Firstly because manslaughter comprises the widest range of sentences of any offence before the courts – from a conditional discharge to life imprisonment. Sentences must reflect the particular facts of the case and because of the innumerable ways in which a manslaughter offence can be committed, the phrase ‘sentences are fact specific’ applies here more than ever. Secondly, although the case has received a great deal of press coverage, without being in court all day everyday, it is very difficult to get a good sense of the true nature of a case such as this.

What is certainly relevant is the motive for setting fire to the house. It may be necessary to examine whether the defendants satisfy the dangerousness provisions – requiring an extended sentence or life sentence.

The sentences will undoubtedly be lengthy.

It may be of interest to know that had the three been convicted of murder, the starting point would have been a whole life tariff.

Image from BBC News.

6 thoughts on “Mick and Mairead Philpott guilty of manslaughter of their six children

  1. Andrew

    Not with a carefully planned job like this. And in law, where it exists it is an “excuse” – it provides a defence.

    Was it even run here?

    It ought to be abolished and the law of coercion (which is non-sexist and does not discriminate against same-sex partners or unmarried partners) left in possession of the field.

    1. Sisterhood (@sisterhooduk)

      Marital coercion is alive and well this manipulative man talked his wife into this crime. I not saying she should have done it, clearly she shouldn’t have, but the truth is despite all the talk, mainly by men, it does exist. I think it should be strengthened not abolished.

  2. Andrew

    “Talked his wife” does not equal coercion any more than A talking B into committing an appalling offence does when A is not the husband of B. I notice you don’t mention the position of non-marital opposite sex-couples. When you say “strengthened” do you mean applied to either party in any marriage, relationship, or partnership? If so you are consistent but you do not seem to leave much space for personal responsibility for personal wrong doing.

    In the case of MacDuff (King of Scotland) -v- Macbeth would you say that Macbeth was coerced by his late wife inot the murder of Duncan? Or if the Physician had pulled her round (“she should have died hereafter”) would you say that he coerced her? Or will they both get off?

    Of course we are both wrong because marital coercion does not apply to murder or treason, and no more it should.

    1. Sisterhood (@sisterhooduk)

      I don’t see why it [coercion] shouldn’t apply to non married couples too however there does seem to be a bond forged by that “little piece of paper” between a couple which is subtly different to “living together”. I believe it ought to apply to married couples and or civil partners. I have seen no evidence of women coercing men in the same manipulative, controlling menacing way that men do to women. And before you take me out and shoot me that’s not to say women aren’t capable of the foregoing but men are bullies by and large exerting their imagined mental superiority and physical stength to instil fear, control and subjugate their partners. Like Mick did to the women in his life he looked for the vulnerable or those he knew he could control and he’s not unique.

      1. Andrew

        Accepting – probably correctly – that it is more likely to be a male-on-female occurrence – are you seriously upholding the present position which is that as a matter of law it is assumed that it cannot be the other way round?

        If you think it should apply to civil partners then you agree that it is not always male-on-female; it can be male-on-male or female-on-female. But somehow the last of the four possible combinations can’t happen . . . come off it. Nothing, but nothing, is impossible in human relations.

        Or of course we could just hold all adults responsible for their own actions.

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