CRIMINAL LAW 1.9 HOMICIDE, MURDER AND MANSLAUGHTER
Sections 306-320 of the Criminal Code provides for these.
The dictionary defines homicide as the killing of a human being by another human being.
Coke said that it is only a human being that can be a victim of murder.
The law only penalizes unlawful and unjustified killing. As such there are a host of defences that can avail an accused. See Chapter 5 of the Criminal Code.
In State V Agu, Section 24 was noted as having 2 parts, the first dealing with the act, the second dealing with the result/consequence of an unwilled act. The second part of Section 24 should thus apply to homicide because it deals with the result of the act.
Chapter 27 of the Criminal Code dealing with homicide and infanticide.
Section 306: Provides that it is unlawful to kill a person unless such killing is authorized, justified or excused. Because there are a host of defence that can exculpate a person for killing another.
Who can be killed?
Section 307 of the Criminal Code provides that a child becomes a person capable of being killed once it has completely proceeded in a living state from the mother, whether it has breathed or not or the umbilical cord has been severed or not.
In R V Castles: The accused procured abortion on a woman that was 22 weeks pregnant. As a result, the child was born out alive, and died two hours later. The accused contended that the baby was not viable as such the death was inevitable. The court rejected the argument and held that the child that had fully proceeded out alive from the mother was one within the contemplation of the section.
The moment a person dies, he ceases to be a human being with the invention of technology, a person can be revived seconds after the heart stops beating. This poses a problem in determining when death has occurred.
Section 308 of the Criminal Code provides that
Anyone who causes the death of another is deemed to have killed that person.
This is termed Causation under law.
In an attempt to construe causation, we try to link the result with the act.
In R V Nwaoke: The accused pointed a juju at the deceased who was indebted to him and threatened. The deceased later fell depressed and hanged herself. She died, the West African Court of Appeal held quashed his conviction and held that there was no evidence to show that the particular juju resulted in the person killing herself. Also holding that the belief in juju is unreasonable.
Section 309 of the Criminal Code: Where a child dies as a consequence of the act or omission of another before or during his birth, that person is deemed to have killed the child. But the child must have first proceeded completely.
Section 310 of the Criminal Code provides that: A person who by threats, intimidation or deceit causes another to do an act or omission which results in his death, is deemed to have killed the other person.
The courts should ask if the act of the deceased was reasonable or daft. Was it a reasonably forseeable consequence? R V Nwaoke.
Section 311 of the Criminal Code provides that: A person who does an act or makes an omission which hastens the death of another who is laboring under some disorder at the time is deemed to have killed that person.
This seems to buttress the egg shell skull principle. Plaue V ham 1975 61 CAR 271. As the law aims at reducing the level of violence. No one should hasten the death of another.
Umoru V the State: In this case, the deceased, a lawyer had just returned from the way keep of a colleague and parked his car. A man who spoke Hausa complained about where he parked the car. Someone that had been sitting with the Hausa man slapped the lawyer. The slap caused the lawyer to fall and hit his head on the hard floor. He became unconscious and died later. Upon appeal the court held that although the act of slapping was intentional, the accused did not intend the result. And such protection is afforded by the second part of Section 24 of the Criminal Code.
In R V Martyr: The accused inflicted several blows on the deceased who slumped and died of brain hemorrhage. He was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.
Section 312 of the Criminal Code. Provides that: The accused cannot plead that the deceased would have survived but for his negligence. He cannot blame the victim for not taking due care. This provision shall take cognizance of the circumstances of the case and the intervening acts.
R V Jordan: While the deceased was being treated for the injury caused by the plaintiff, he drank water which gave him pneumonia. It was held that the result was too remote from the act of the accused. R V Brook. You should not say your victim was negligent in treating himself. Just don’t accelerate the death of another and don’t find a reason to blame the victim for not taking due care.
Smith V R 1959 2 qb 45. The accused argued that there was undue care given to the deceased in healing and health services for the wound resulting from his act. It was held that the act of the accused remained the substantial cause of the deceased’s death.
Malsharel and steel(or so) and R V Steel 1981 17 car 873(or so) the court of appeal dismissed their appeals on policy basis. The court held that nothing done by the doctor should be seen as an intervening event except there a very clear indication to the contrary.
Pagett V r 1983 car 270.
Pagett V R. R V Blaue.
Section 313 of the Criminal Code. Provides that: If death results from medical treatment of the injury caused by the accused conduct on the deceased, it shall be no defence for the accused except the treatment was grossly negligent and unreasonable and was not applied in good faith.- R V Steel
Section 314 of the Criminal Code. Provides that: Death must take place within a year and a day of the cause of the death. (The last unlawful act occurring which contributed to the death). Meaning that where mr A does something which makes Mr B hospitalized, if Mr B dies after 366 days from the act, Mr A is nevertheless exculpated because the death did not take place within a year and a day.
With the advancement in Medical Technology, a person can be preserved for a much longer period. The relevance of this provision can thus be questioned.
This provision has been removed from the Lagos state law subject to the permission by the Attorney General to prosecute. One can now be liable with the permission of the attorney general. R V Dyson
Section 315 of the Criminal Code. Provides that any person who unlawfully kills another is guilty of murder or manslaughter. Unlawfully killing another means murder or manslaughter. It thus provides for only two types of offences recognized by the law in this regard. Read Section 316 that tells us when to know if murder or manslaughter has occurred. A woman that kills her child within 12 months of birth is not responsible if it can be shown that she suffered from some illness or mental depression.
Section 316 goes further to tell us the circumstances where a person that kills is said to commit murder.
- If the offender intends to cause death or grievous bodily harm.
- Prosecution of an unlawful purpose which is likely to harm or endanger life.
- Intention to cause harm in order to facilitate the commission of an offence
- Administering things or stopping breath for the purposes mentioned above.
It is also immaterial if the offender claims that he did not intend to cause harm in carrying out an unlawful purpose that is likely to endanger life. Section 316 of the Criminal Code.
“Unlawfully kills” note that if a person can breathe without a machine he is still alive. If he is brain dead and being supported by a machine, the decision to remove the machine is not murder. Re a conjoined twins (just passing) the case was decided on the basis of necessity. In the new lagos state law, sub 4 to 6 have been removed.
- Note that sub one also includes malice. Wasila V something where the accused (a 14 year old child bride) poisoned her husband’s food and the husband ate it with some other of his friends, they all died. also amina V r or so. If there is intention to cause death. When is a person said to intend something
There is a rebuttable presumption that one intends the probable consequence of his act. Hyam V dpp. Adejumola V the state. The defendant threw a burning stone at the deceased, he claimed not to have intended to cause grievous bodily harm on the defendant.
Sub 2 deals with grievous bodily harm. It has been defined in Section? of the Criminal Code. As in this case, merely intending grievous bodily harm might make you liable. Especially where the intention is specific intention.
Does the law punish ommissions? No. Except there is a duty to act. Duties are imposed on heads of families to provide for their members.
Transferred malice also applies to murder.
Wasila V R: Here the accused (a 14 year old child bride) poisoned her husband’s food. The husband ate it with some other of his friends, they all died.
Amina V R
Hyam V DPP, the court held that a person should intend the probable consequences of his act.
Adejumola V the State: The accused threw a burning stove at the deceased, he claimed not to have intended to cause grievous bodily harm.
Umaagwu V the State. 308-312
Section 317 provides that a person who kills a person in such circumstances as not to constitute murder is guilty of manslaughter. This may be seen to provide for involuntary manslaughter. In law negligence is of a higher degree. As such the courts would only be willing to construe manslaughter rather than accident in gross negligence cases. Umaagwu V the stat
Section 318 provides for the defence of provocation: Where someone does an act that can constitute murder but it is done in the heat of passion caused by grave and sudden provocation and before there is time for passion to cool. He is then guilty of manslaughter only. This can be seen as the voluntary manslaughter. The accidental killing of a person is referred to as involuntary manslaughter while voluntary manslaughter is death caused as a result of provocation.
The law does not define provocation. It can be seen as: to persistently annoy someone.
Usually, one is forced to take solace in Section 283 of the Criminal Code. Provocation can thus be construed to mean
- An unlawful and unjustifiable act
- That would cause an ordinary man in the circumstances of the defendant to loose his power of self-control.
- Done in the heat of passion before there was time to cool.
- Reasonable force used to resent.
In R V Adekanmi: A rural man and a farmer killed his wife for calling him impotent and claiming that she was sleeping with other men. The court took into consideration, his circumstances and held that such was enough to amount to provocation.
However in Layiwola V R, a civil servant who killed on a similar basis of such provocation was held culpable because the court looked at his educational background and experience.
In Nungu V R: A younger brother said to his brother during a quarrel that he had provided the money for his brother’s wedding. The court held that it did not amount to provocation. See Nworie Nwali V the state.
No amount of provocation can ever justify a killing. It can only reduce murder to manslaughter.
The plea has also been granted in filial relationships. R V Palmer establishes the principle of continuing provocation. There also exists, the transferred malice in provocation.
In R V Martyr: The accused dealt the deceased several blows. The deceased fell and died of brain hemorrhage. The court found him guilty of manslaughter rather than murder.
In R V Akpankpan: The deceased brought her daughter’s corpse home and her husband refused. She rained abuses and insults on him and he stabbed her five times with a heavy dagger. It was held that the degree and method of violence used cannot avail him of the protection of provocation.
Section 319 provides that the sentence for murder is death. But someone below 17 and a pregnant woman cannot be given such sentence.
Section 320 provides that anyone who attempts to kill another can be liable to life imprisonment.
***A woman that kills her child within 12 months of birth is not responsible if it can be shown that she suffered from some illness or mental depression.