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Home Office: Murder, manslaughter and infanticide: proposals for reform of the law


The unlawful taking of the life of another human being is the most serious matter which our criminal courts have to deal with. It is an offence with devastating consequences for those involved and their families. It is also a matter of great public concern.

The role of the criminal law in these cases is to ensure that justice is done and that the punishment fits the crime. In order to do this, the law needs to be clear and consistent and in tune with current circumstances and attitudes.

It is over 50 years since the last comprehensive review of the law on homicide. The time is ripe for another one. That is why the Government asked the Law Commission to carry out a fundamental review of the various elements of murder and manslaughter to determine whether the law as it now stands meets the needs of the 21st century. The conclusions of that review are set out in the report, "Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide". We are extremely grateful to the Law Commission for this indepth report and the thorough consultation and careful thought which has gone into it. It has provided us with a solid platform for the next stage of the process.

Given the breadth of the recommendations, we have decided to look first at those which we think touch on the areas of most pressing concern. We have been giving them careful consideration and our proposals for reform are set out in this paper, together with draft clauses which would give effect to them. This area of the law, perhaps above all others, needs to work effectively and command the confidence of the criminal justice system and society as a whole.

That is why we want to test out and refine the proposals now before introducing them to Parliament and why we hope to receive a wide range of comments on them. We need to get this right.

We welcome your views to help us to do this.

To read the full document please click the link below.

pdf icon Home Office: Murder, manslaughter and infanticide: proposals for reform of the law (2008) [330kb]

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