Evaluation and Reform

Homicide - Murder
Evaluation and Reform
• Evaluate the law on murder
• Describe the reform of murder
• Analyse the evaluation and reform of murder
Assessed Task
Create an learning aid to show the need for reform of homicide law.
It could be a leaflet, webpage, poster etc.
What is the purpose of legal
Recall/look over your notes on
murder- Are there any areas that
need reform?
Who investigated and proposed
reform on Homicide?
On your sheet look at the criticisms made
by the law commission.
Put them in order of importance. (1
being the most important).
Evaluation #1
Lack of cohesion
• Murder is a common-law offence developed through
decisions in many cases over long periods of time.
These cases have in turn led to uncertainty and
ambiguities, which required further cases to settle.
• Critics argue that it is essential to have a clear
definition of murder, as it is the most serious of
criminal offences.
Evaluation #2
Problems with mens rea: intention
• Cases like Hyam, Moloney, Nedrick and
Woollin highlight the difficulties that the
courts have faced in establishing the meaning
of intention, and even today there is still no
clear definition. This means juries may make
different decisions in cases with similar facts.
Evaluation #3
Problems with mens rea: intention to cause
• The mens rea of murder can be satisfied when
the defendant intends only to cause GBH. This
means that a defendant could be convicted of
murder when he or she had no intention of
causing death or had not even considered the
possibility that it may occur.
Evaluation #4
Life sentence
• The mandatory life sentence for murder has
been criticised, as it does not allow judges the
flexibility to pass sentences appropriate to the
circumstances of the case.
Reform #1
The Law Commission has proposed that the ambiguities
surrounding the law of murder should be resolved
through legislation, namely a new Homicide Act. This
would, it hopes, achieve the certainty that has been
lacking in this area for so long. The new Act would
encompass all of the elements of homicide – murder,
voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
The Law Commission suggests that the offences should
be defined according to a ‘ladder principle’ or hierarchy,
which reflects the seriousness of the various offences.
Reform #2
Murder would be divided into ‘first-degree’ and ‘second-degree’
• First-degree murder would apply to the defendant who intended to
kill, and he or she would receive the mandatory life sentence.
• Second-degree murder would carry a discretionary life sentence
and would apply to defendants who:
killed while intending to commit serious harm
were ‘recklessly indifferent’ to causing death
rely on provocation, diminished responsibility or duress
The new Act should also include a clear definition of the mens rea
required for murder – particularly regarding intention.
Reform #3
It has been suggested that the compulsory
nature of the mandatory life sentence should be
changed so that the maximum sentence remains
life imprisonment but judges are free to
sentence according to the circumstances of each
case, rather than being restrained by a
mandatory sentence.
• Evaluate the law on murder
• Describe the reform of murder
• Analyse the evaluation and reform of murder