Tag Archives: Manslaughter

“Punch 4 Punch” – a game with tragic consequences

For those unfamiliar with the game “Punch 4 Punch”, as we at UK Criminal Law Blog were, we are reliably informed that the game involves players being filmed with one hand tied behind their backs, punching one another.  A seemingly odd form of amusement, the game involves two individuals taking turns to hit one another.  The “loser”, or the player who gives up first, then forced to take a forfeit, usually in the form of an alcoholic beverage.

This rather bizarre game can have tragic consequences, as one family from Bexley have sadly found out.  Tommy Main, a 23 year old father of one, was playing the game with a friend when he was rushed to hospital having collapsed after being punched in the chest.  He later died in hospital.  A 20 year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and bailed until September for the police to commence investigations.

 

Tommy Main, photo: Evening Standard

Egg-Shell Skull

Whether the game caused Mr Main’s death is yet to be established.  However, it brings to mind the “egg-shell skull” rule.  Essentially, this rule states that those who commit offences must “take their victim as they find them”.  By way of explanation; if set out to steal a handbag, but in doing so you cause your victim to fall the ground, crack their head open and later die, you may be held criminally responsible for their death.  Although you may not have intended to kill, therefore may not be guilty of murder, you may be guilty of manslaughter, as death was the result, albeit an unexpected and unintended one.

Joint Enterprise

Joint enterprise is a legal doctrine enabling the CPS to charge a group of individuals with one offence, if they were allegedly acting together, regardless of what role they played.  For example, the man who sets out to steal the handbag, may ask someone to drive him to and from the scene of the crime, and therefore that driver can also be charged with theft/robbery/manslaughter/murder, in the same manner that the handbag thief is.  In Tommy Main’s case we would speculate that there may well be others involved, who may well face charges under this doctrine.

Sentencing?

If the 20 year-old man referred to above is charged with murder, what sentence might he expect to receive?  The sentencing guidelines for murder are explained here.  If a manslaughter charge is laid, he would be subject to different sentencing considerations and of course the judge would not have to impose a life sentence.  Until the case is investigated thoroughly it is simply too early to say what the outcome will be.  But this post will be updated as and when there are any developments.

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Natasha Sultan receives 3-year Supervision Order for infanticide

Natasha Sultan killed her 5-week-old daughter Amelia Lily in a “sudden explosion of violence”. Amelia Lily suffered a single blow to the head and later died in hospital.

Sultan, aged 21, will be sentenced on 12 November 2013.

Offence of infanticide

Infanticide Act 1938 s 1 creates the offence of a woman causing the death of her child when her mind was disturbed. It reads:

(1)Where a woman by any wilful act or omission causes the death of her child being a child under the age of twelve months, but at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child, then, notwithstanding that the circumstances were such that but for this Act the offence would have amounted to murder, she shall be guilty of felony, to wit of infanticide, and may for such offence be dealt with and punished as if she had been guilty of the offence of manslaughter of the child.

(2)Where upon the trial of a woman for the murder of her child, being a child under the age of twelve months, the jury are of opinion that she by any wilful act or omission caused its death, but that at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child, then the jury may, notwithstanding that the circumstances were such that but for the provisions of this Act they might have returned a verdict of murder, return in lieu thereof a verdict of infanticide.

The offence is triable only in the Crown Court and the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. It is now rarely charged, with 1 person receiving a community sentence in 2009, 2 receiving community sentences in 2010 and 0 people being sentenced for it in 2011.

Facts

The prosecution said that Sultan had changed her story several times, first claiming that she did not know of any injury to her child, then claiming that she had accidentally dropped the child, and latterly admitting to causing the fractured skull.

Sultan admitted infanticide on the first day of her trial. She was originally charged with murder but the prosecution accepted the plea to infanticide.

Sultan was suffering from post-natal depression at the time of the offence.

Judge’s comments

BBC News reported: Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told her: “I cannot, and will not, ignore the fact you killed your baby…in a sudden explosion of violence.

“It is an anxious and difficult case in equal measure.

“The facts are clear – you killed your much-loved and wanted child when the balance of your mind was disturbed.”

Sentence – General

This offence is very similar to manslaughter and as we have said before, manslaughter has perhaps the widest range of sentences given; from an absolute discharge to life imprisonment.

The sentences vary wildly according to the individual circumstances, but clearly the mental health element of this offence provides for some mitigation.

Judges are required to balance the fact that a vulnerable life has been taken with the obvious psychiatric difficulties. Sentences for this offence are more likely to focus on helping the defendant as opposed to purely punishing them, as the courts recognise the difficult and unique circumstances in which this offence is committed.

In a case in 1989, the court said that in the previous 10 years there had been 59 cases of infanticide and not one had received a custodial sentence.

Without knowing the facts and mental health records it is difficult to say what type of sentence the court are likely to consider appropriate; some defendants receive hospital orders, whereas others receive community sentences. At the very least, we can say that this is likely to be a non-custodial sentence.

3-year Supervision Order

It has been reported that Sultan received a 3-year Supervision Order.

More to come later.

Man jailed for killing crying baby daughter

Kurt Delves has been jailed for 3 years and nine months for shaking his 10 week-old daughter causing devastating brain damage and haemorrhages in her brain and eyes.  The baby later died in hospital.

Kurt Delves

Delves admitted manslaughter of his daughter having shook her “in frustration” when she would not stop crying.  Police say Delves shook her in an attempt to wake her when she became floppy during a bath.  She was taken to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and put on a life support machine, but later died.

Delves admitted manslaughter on day one of his trial.  In sentencing him to three years and nine months, HHJ Thirlwall said “I accept you wanted to be a good father but on this date, you didn’t, you lost your temper, you shook her repeatedly.”

Dainotas Doblys sentenced for manslaughter after ‘raping woman to death’

Doblys

Dainostas Doblys was acquitted of the murder of 49 year old Virginija Jurkiene but convicted of her double rape and manslaughter in June 2013. On 2 September, he was sentenced.

Doblys was aged 49 and came to the United Kingdom between 2005 and 2008 and returned here in late 2011.

Convictions

There were some convictions from Lithuania, and convictions in Scotland for threatening behaviour, assaults and carrying a knife. With the seriousness of the offences here, it is unlikely these will have had much of an impact on the sentence.

Facts

Virginija placed an advert in the Lonely Hearts column of a Lithuanian paper. She said that she was a

“49 year old sole, friendly, funny female seeking friend for serious friendship. If you are bored of being on your own, call me. I live in Wisbech town. [Mobile] 756.”

He answered the advertisement and, after several telephone calls, agreed to meet. They did so and paid for a hotel room. They ate a meal on the hotel room floor and drank two bottles of brandy and a bottle of vodka.

Doblys then subjected Virginija to a sustained sexual attack during which he raped her both anally and vaginally. It was the prosecution case that she was raped on the floor, from behind and died of postural asphyxia in association with severe alcohol intoxication.

The following day, Doblys informed the hotel reception staff that Virginja was dead in the hotel room.

Virginija was already dead when at 7.15 am Doblys made a short call on his mobile to a woman in Lithuania. He took a long shower and did not go downstairs until about 11.15 am. Only after buying some cigarettes did he tell the landlady that there was something wrong with your companion.

Injuries

The Judge described the injuries as ‘shocking wounds to the intimate parts of her body.’ Details of the injuries were not read out in open court during the sentencing hearing. The details are disturbing.

We are able to report what was said of the injuries during the trial.

There were significant injuries to her vagina and the mucosa of her rectum had been removed to a depth of 8cm. The injuries were caused by repetitive and forceful penetration. There was lots of bleeding.

Felicity Gerry, prosecuting, said during the trial: “All the evidence indicates he kept assaulting her until she was dead and probably beyond.”

The Judge said

‘The extent and multiplicity of arm and leg bruises suggested many actions of gripping type pressure, with penetration being achieved by gripping your victim’s inner thighs and moving them apart. An injury to her chin was consistent with a forceful impact with the floor.’

Judge’s comments about the case

The investigation and presentation of this case by the police, CPS and counsel was meticulous.

‘I…thank all three experienced counsel (Miss Gerry, Mr. Khalil QC and Miss Rafferty) for their assistance throughout this trial, both on matters of law and in relation to the fair and efficient presentation of the evidence…’

Sentence

The Judge said:

‘I regard your culpability as only slightly reduced by the inference I make from the joint booking of the hotel room and her undamaged removed clothing that Virginija contemplated some sort of naked sexual activity with you there.

You were a florid liar in your dealings with the police, painting a bogus picture of athletic yet entirely consensual prolonged bouts of sexual intercourse.’

It was accepted that the rapes were not planned or pre-meditated.

The manslaughter

The Judge found that Doblys satisfied the dangerousness criteria. This means that the Judge considered that there was a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public posed by Doblys. That required him to impose either and extended sentence or a life sentence. He felt that an extended sentence was appropriate for the manslaughter offence.

The Judge was reuiqred to assess the appropriate custodial term, and then add on an extended licence period, designed to protect the public once Doblys has been released.

The sentence was 16 years’ custody with a 4-year extended licence.

The rapes

The Judge imposed two 11-year sentences on the two rape counts, to be served concurrently (at the same time) with the extended sentence.

Notification

As a result of the sentence, Doblys is subject to the notification requirements, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, for life. This is more commonly known as the sex offenders register.

Release

Doblys will serve 2/3 of the custodial term, at which point he must apply to the parole board for release. They can release him, or keep him in custody until the expiration of the custodial term of the sentence (16 years).

Man who ‘raped woman to death’ is convicted of manslaughter and rape

Man who ‘raped woman to death’ is convicted of manslaughter and rape

In January 2013, Virginja Jurkiene, 49, posted a ‘lonely hearts’ advert.Dainotas Doblys, 48, answered the advert and the pair agreed to meet.

They went to the Hare and Hounds Hotel in North Brink. They went to buy alcohol and food from a local shop, and then returned to the hotel.

The following day, Doblys informed the hotel reception staff that Virginja was dead in the hotel room.

The BBC reported that a post-mortem examination revealed Ms Jurkiene had died from “suffocation in conjunction with severe alcohol intoxication”.

In court, the cause of death was described as postural asphyxia – essentially, Virginje had suffocated due to the position her body was in. Doblys told the police he had penetrated her for 4-5 hours. Injuries to both indicated this was from behind.

Virginje had suffered numerous injuries and was found face down in a pool of her own blood. There were significant injuries to her vagina and the mucosa of her rectum had been removed to a depth of 8cm.

The trial

Doblys denied murder and rape and said the two had had consensual sex.

The prosecution case was essentially that Doblys had ‘raped Virginje to death’. They brought the case on the basis that he had murdered her – not intending to kill, but intending to cause her really serious harm. They also alleged two counts of rape, anal and vaginal

The BBC reported: Felicity Gerry, prosecuting, said: “The multiplicity and significant nature of injury leads to an inevitable inference that the defendant intended to cause really serious harm.

“All the evidence indicates he kept assaulting her until she was dead and probably beyond.”

She said Ms Jerkiene died long before she was found and “the pathology is that she would have been semi-conscious or unconscious and therefore incapable of consent” .

Virginje was a heavy drinker and was 4.5 times the legal driving limit at the time of her death.

The jury were asked to consider counts of murder and rape (x2). Manslaughter was an alternative verdict to the murder count on the basis that the rapes were unlawful acts and Doblys was responsible for her death even if he did not intend to kill.

Verdicts

Dainotas Doblys was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and rape (two counts).

Sentences

The maximum sentence for rape and for manslaughter is life imprisonment.

Doblys will be sentenced on 2 September 2013. We will return to the case then.

Mick and Mairead Philpott guilty of manslaughter of their six children

philpotts

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

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.

Conviction

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

Sentence

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.

14 year old girl and 17 year old boy guilty of manslaughter

Junior

A 14 year old girl and her 17 year old boyfriend, neither of whom can be named, have been found guilty of manslaughter, having been found not guilty of murder.

Junior Nkwelle, aged 15, was playing football on a housing estate in Brixton, south London, in September 2012. He had been playing football with his friends when an argument broke out. The girl and her friends seem to have taken offence over something.

The girl then telephoned her boyfriend and told him to come to the estate to teach Junior a lesson. He travelled by bus and when he arrived, started fighting with Junior. He then stabbed Junior in the chest with a knife. The wound cut his heart and a lung. He died at the scene.

The court heard that Junior did not know either the boy or girl prior to the incident and that ‘there was no quarrel between them.’

It would appear that the manslaughter convictions are on the basis that there was no intention to kill or cause really serious injury, however there has been no confirmation of this.

The sentencing hearing is on 5 April. We will report the sentences imposed in due course.

The sentences imposed are likely to be custodial. Here is some for information on youth custodial sentences.

The BBC news reports are here and here.

Image taken from the BBC.