It is a common law offence and its types are defined by
the House of Lords in DPP V Newbury and Jones1
(1977) AC 500:
The act must be Intentional, Unlawful, dangerous and
it must cause the death of the victim.
In order to make a person liable for the offence, the
prosecution must prove that the act is an intentional act and not an omission.
In the case of R V Lowe (1973) QB 702 it was held that an omission can never be
sufficient for the conviction of unlawful act manslaughter.
The defendant must commit a criminal offence, which
means that the act should be unlawful in the eyes of law. In the case of Lamb (1967)
2 QB 981,the Court of appeal held that
there should be some proof of criminal offence and in this case there was no
proof so the defendant cannot be liable for the offense.
The act committed
must be dangerous from the point
of view of reasonable man and not the defendant. Lord Salmon stated in the case
of Church (1966) 1 QB 59 that:
“In judging whether the act was dangerous the test is
not did the accused recognize that it was dangerous but would all sober and
reasonable people recognize its danger”.
The final requirement is that the defendant must cause
the death of the victim and there should be no intervening act which breaks the
chain of causation.
In the given question Keith has injected Janis with
the syringe of heroine and Kurt has injected himself but the syringe is
prepared by Keith, both kurt and Janis were willing to inject heroine into their
the case of Cato 1976 1 WLR 110 when the victim dies as a result of injecting
the class A drug by the defendant then it is considered as malicious
administration of a poison or noxious thing so as to endanger life or inflict
grievous bodily harm, contrary to sec.23 of the offences against the persons
act 1861.The consent of victim is no defense in this case.
So in this case Keith will be liable for the death of
Janis and will be convicted for the offence of unlawful act manslaughter and
according to my viewpoint also Keith should be liable as he may not be knowing
that the heroine is contaminated but he committed a unlawful act by injecting
heroine into the body of Janis which was an intentional and dangerous act and
it causes death of Janis, so he should be liable for the same. The act of keith
will be considered unlawful for the purpose of unlawful act manslaughter.
On the other hand, Kurt self injected the syringe of
heroine which was prepared by Keith. The court of appeal held in the case of
Dias (2001) EWCA Crim 2986 that: “Neither the
statute nor the common law provided for an offence of injecting oneself with a
controlled drug and thus the defendant could not be secondary party to this”
In the case of Rogers (2003) EWCA Crim 945 the Court
of appeal held that self injection by victim does not amount to an offence, so
the defendant cannot be liable as a secondary party to that injection.
However, in the case of Finlay (2003) EWCA Crim 3868
the court of appeal took a different view that the defendant could be the
secondary party to the injection and can be made liable for the offence even if
it was self injection by the victim because such self injection will be
This confusion was cleared by the House Of Lords in the
leading case of Kennedy (No. 2) (2007) UKHL 38:
The defendant cannot be made liable for the offence of
unlawful act manslaughter if the victim died because of self injection as the voluntary
act of the victim breaks the chain of causation and supplying controlled drugs to
the victim will not amount to unlawful act for the purpose of unlawful act manslaughter.
So in this case keith will not be liable for the death
of kurt and in my viewpoint also kurt was fully willing to self inject the heroine
into his body, the act of supplying the syringe of heroine to kurt does not amount
to be unlawful for the act of unlawful act manslaughter.